‘Food and goods labels cause me nothing but confusion and frustration’

Sep 20, 2019
"I have even purchased a magnifying glass to help me read the fine print," says Brian. (Stock photo) Source: Getty Images

I don’t know if it’s just that the people who create them aren’t properly trained or because they don’t really want us to have the information they are publishing, but am I the only one who gets annoyed with the way goods are labelled these days? Jacqui and I have been annoyed on many occasions and we have even purchased magnifying glasses and small torches to try to make life easier, but with little success!

I know manufacturers are forced by law to include more and more data on the outside of foodstuffs and other products we purchase. Things like descriptions or the technical name of the food or drink, the net weight or volume, a date mark, ingredients list that includes additives, the nutritional information panel, allergy warnings, the name and address of the manufacturer (or distributor or importer), the country of origin, storage instructions, and batch information are all compulsory for food labels.

I accept the fact that all of this is done for our ultimate safety and I also accept the fact that all this labelling obviously cannot be larger than the pack itself. However, I do wonder sometimes about how much thought has gone into the inclusion of all this information.

How often have you tried to read the cooking instructions (they have to be for both oven and microwave), and found they have been either printed in white on a pale yellow, or pale blue background, in about four point type, so that it is almost impossible to see, even with some visual assistance. If they had any desire for consumers to read the stuff, it should have been produced in a bold black, or some other rich colour type on the pale coloured background. Even better, on a plain white background!

It might help too, if the product was supplied with a small magnifying glass, to help an old timer like me, whose vision is no longer as good as it used to be. (Yes, I’m just joking about the magnifying glass — it would most likely double the price of the product.)

Another problem I’ve encountered along somewhat similar lines, though caused by a lack of information rather than legibility. Virtually every electronic device we buy these day comes with a USB cable and a mains transformer for recharging the item concerned, but I have yet to find one piece of this equipment that has the name and model of what it is supposed to be connected to!

I must have 40 or 50 such cables and little black boxes, some for Samsung phones, some for Apple iPhones and iPads, some for my Nikon camera and several other cameras I have owned, every one of them nameless. Do each of these cables and transformers work in exactly the same way, so as to be interchangeable, or does connecting my Nikon charger, using my Samsung USB cable, to the mains electricity socket to charge my Fitbit watch mean that it will blow up or catch fire? I just don’t know and I’m wary of experimenting unless I destroy some valuable piece of equipment!

Then there are the manuals that come with so much of the equipment we buy nowadays (or rather don’t come — you have to download them), like the Fitbit watch, the iPad and computer, etc. They all seem to have been written by experts who take it for granted that we consumers are just as skilled in the subject of their product, and electronics in general, as they are.

The manufacturers leave out vital clues about where to go next in their handsome instruction books, in order to make the part you wish to be working work! When you eventually get the necessary information, you find it is written in such obscure grammar so that it’s highly likely you still won’t be able to proceed anyway.

The number of times I have had to follow some weird path to get where I want to be … Directions and sites that appear to bear absolutely no relationship to the information I need. Consequently, because of the very obscurity of the information, which is usually only required rarely, I can never remember how I got there the last time (quite a while ago), and I have to plough through the instructions again, as if I was still a beginner!

There are many other examples I could quote, regarding the instructions and information for the various pieces of equipment that I buy. I am sure though that I am not entirely alone in this subject either.

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Are you frustrated by labels on food and other products? Does it annoy you that relevant information seems to be missing when you purchase a product?

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