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Translation in Food Labels: Why Not?

Food labels
Translation in Food Labels: Why Not?
on June, 27 2014
Food labels

Image credit: Reading food labels taken by Hglu23 under Public Domain.

Have you ever been to another country and had a hard time buying food from the grocery store or a supermarket since the food packaging was labeled only with the local language? In as much as you wanted to buy something, you just couldn’t because you were afraid to take the risk and waste your money. If the food were something that you were not used to eating or might be unhealthy for you, chances are, you would just end upthrowing it away.

Thus, manufacturers should make sure that when they pack their products, they should put labels not only in the local language, but in English or other popular languages as well. Some manufacturers don’t find it necessary especially if they don’t export their products. However, since foreigners also visit different countries and they don’t speak the local language, their needs have to be addressed as well. This is also true for migrants and foreign workers residing in the country. Here are some more reasons why translating food labels, is of great importance:

  • Consumers must know the content of what they are eating. These days, people are becoming more conscious of what they eat. They need to know the calorie present in every food that they take as well as other ingredients in it. By then, they can easily make the decision on whether or not to patronize such product.
  • Some people have certain allergies. Therefore, if the product contains something that may cause allergic reaction, it is important for them to know about it. In different countries, not all the contents of every food are the same. For instance, there are countries where a certain type of milk is added on the spaghetti sauce. Those who have allergies to milk or are lactose intolerant and are not aware about it might be in great danger.
  • Religion is also another factor that must come into play. Some religions have food restriction. In the case of Muslims, it is quite easy to know if the food is safe to eat or not since they just have to look for the Halal sign. However, for other religions that are not allowed to eat beef or seafoods for instance, a label without any translation isn't of any help.
  • Consumers must also be wise in deciding which option is more economical. Thus, they need to understand the net content or net weight of the product that they buy. They also need to know the price differences. Confusion may arise when there are a lot of numbers on the label without proper description. Thus, instead of coming up with a good decision, consumers are led to buy the wrong product.

Yes, it is understandable for manufacturers not to translate their labels to save space and money. However, they also have to consider those who cannot speak the local language. The basics such as ingredients, weight, content percentage and price must at least be there. It will not necessarily consume a huge space on the label. Besides, if foreigners understand more the content of the product, they will be more encouraged to buy them. It could boost sales in the long run.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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