Reading the label: fresh food


Really interesting definition! What does “fresh” actually mean on food labels?

With the exception of «fresh» chicken or turkey, and «exceptionally fresh» eggs, there are no specific laws describing the scope of this definition. However, aspirational recommendations for the use of this definition on food labels have been made by the Food Standards Agency (in the EU).

When can you use the expression «fresh»?

First, it should only be used when its meaning is not misunderstood and helps us distinguish between several similar products. So, for example, it is clear that a «fresh» fruit salad should be made only from fresh fruits and among the pieces of fresh apples there should not be a single piece of canned peaches in it.

This expression can also be used to describe pasteurized dairy products such as milk and cream, the latter of which have a limited shelf life. That’s why you see bags of «fresh milk» and «fresh cream» in the chilled cabinets.

Emotionally colored labels

Sometimes manufacturers like to embellish a little and emphasize the «freshness» of the product, adding such definitions:

  • «oceanic» («ocean freshness»);
  • «from the bakery», for example, bread «from the bakery»;
  • or «green peas from the garden»

The Food Standards Agency advises against using emotionally charged language.


These expressions are in fact, probably, used only in order to capture our attention. The words are warm and cozy and encourage us to buy such a wonderful product without hesitation. If the choice is between «freshly baked» tortillas and regular ones, then I know which ones I will buy. Such labels can really inflame your imagination and cause you to salivate profusely, but they may not carry any information about the quality of the product. If you see inscriptions of this type, pay attention to the date of manufacture of the product. For example, if the cakes were «freshly baked» in the afternoon or in the morning, and you buy them in the afternoon or in the morning, then this information is true, and if they were «freshly baked» yesterday or a few days ago, then such an inscription is incorrect.


The marking «fresh» or «freshly picked» on vegetables and fruits in the food industry means that these products have not been subjected to mechanical processing. “Fresh” in this case is by no means necessarily those that were plucked a few hours ago, and the dew has not had time to dry on them yet.


In the food industry, it is customary to use the term «fresh» to refer to raw meat as opposed to canned. For example, there are «fresh» pork chops, as opposed to salted bacon with layers of fat.

fresh food


For fish, it is customary to use the term «fresh» if it has been kept on ice all the time from the moment it was caught until it hit the store. The term «fresh» is not allowed to refer to thawed fish that has been deep-frozen. Also, you cannot use the term «fresh» for meat that has been frozen.


If you see a box of freshly squeezed fruit juice on the shelf, then you should not think that somewhere in the back room a team of sellers manually squeezes the juice and bottles it. In fact, the meaning of this expression is that the juice that you buy was not made from a concentrate, but squeezed from natural fruits.

Freshly squeezed juices are perishable, and they usually give information about how long they should be used (usually within 2 weeks after purchase).


If freshly squeezed fruit juice has been pasteurized to increase shelf life, then the manufacturer should state this on the product label, using terms such as «freshly squeezed pasteurized orange juice.» This information is important to us because pasteurization (cooking) reduces the content of vitamin C in the juice. On juices made from concentrate, the word «fresh» cannot be used.


Probably, a rare manufacturer will dare to write “fresh” on his packaging of dry pasta, but on the other hand, who knows … Usually, “fresh Italian pasta” is kept in a store in a cabinet for chilled products, at home they are stored in the refrigerator no more than a few days and only takes a few minutes to cook.


Write-off «freshly baked bread» is only permissible if all stages of the bread production process start from dough kneading. Before baking, they took place in the bakery at the store. Nowadays, bread is often brought to stores half-baked, and in the store it is baked in ovens. Such bread should not be sold as «freshly baked,» or «store-baked,» or «fresh from the oven.»

Probably, this is not so important if the bread in the store is still hot and tasty. But if you are a champion of justice, then before buying bread with such a label, you can ask the sales assistant how it was actually baked.


On the packaging of vegetables, such as broccoli or beans, or on the packaging of frozen fish, you may see the words “fresh frozen”. Such an inscription can only be placed if the food product was really frozen in speed after it was collected from the garden or fished out of the sea.


Foods and drinks with the information that they are made from fresh ingredients must fully comply with this information! That is, the composition of these products should not include dried, smoked, canned and pickled ingredients. For example, a «fresh strawberry milkshake» should not contain powdered skimmed milk or frozen strawberries. It should be prepared with fresh strawberries and fresh milk.

Or one more example. If a food label says «fresh flavored…», such as «apples», then you would expect that fresh apples were used to impart the apple flavor, rather than an artificial apple flavor.


There are now many «fresh» boxed soups, «fresh» sauces, and «fresh condiments» sold in stores. In this situation, the expression “fresh” is only used for products with a shorter shelf life in a chilled cabinet compared to products packaged in cans or bottles and subjected to more serious processing.

Source: Adapted from How to Read Labels by Amanda Ursell

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