Correctly label water in the list of ingredients - header image

Lists of ingredients: The correct labelling of water

Nutritional information, ingredients and allergens – we find all this information on the labels of packaged foods. The list of ingredients shown there is reminiscent of a recipe. Because it reveals exactly which ingredients are contained in a product. According to the Food Information Regulation, all ingredients must be listed in descending order of their percentage by weight at the time they are used in the manufacture of the food. This means that the amount of water used, for example, together with wheat flour, salt and yeast in the production of bread must be indicated together with the other ingredients. But to what extent is the fact that moisture is removed as a result of the heat treatment and that there is significantly less water in the end product taken into account when drawing up the list of ingredients? Our article answers your questions!

Everything about ingredient lists

Expulsion is mandatory. Therefore, every packaged food product must be accompanied by a list of ingredients. Only a few products are exempt from this obligation – including foods that consist of only one ingredient, such as sugar or milk. An ingredient is practically any substance that has been used in the manufacture of a foodstuff.

Additives are also considered to be ingredients. These are substances that are added to food for technological reasons, such as for acidification or colouring. This technological purpose must also always be stated: The list of ingredients of lemonades, for example, often states “Acidifier: citric acid”, and for fruit juices “Antioxidant: ascorbic acid”. These additives may alternatively be indicated with their E-number (such as saltpetre as a preservative with E252). Since they are usually present in very small quantities in the final product, they are often found at the end of the ingredient list.

Allergenic substances in lists of ingredients

Ingredients that account for less than two percent of the total may be listed in any order. Important for allergy sufferers: foods that trigger the most common food allergies, such as soy or milk protein, must always be identifiable. Since 2014, the rule has been that these must even be visually highlighted in the list of ingredients. This is done, for example, by using bold print or colour coding – so that they catch the consumer’s eye immediately. The compulsory labelling of allergens is unavoidable. This means that substances added to a food during production must also be identifiable on the label. Because residues of it can cause severe health problems in allergy sufferers.

It’s the crowd that counts

The quantity labelling of certain ingredients is very helpful for the comparison of foods of the same type from different manufacturers. It is obligatory above all if an ingredient is particularly emphasised on the label in advertising – by words, pictures or graphics. For example, fruit images are often seen on whey or yoghurt products. A glance at the list of ingredients reveals the percentage quantities of the fruits shown. And whether the proportion is then 20 or 30 percent can certainly be decisive for taste and thus also for purchasing.

Water: The source of life – And of discord?

You see: There is a lot to consider when properly labeling ingredients for consumer protection reasons. This applies not only to elaborately prepared foods, but also to our daily bread. It is also necessary to take into account how the proportions change during the baking process. One exception, however, is water.

Wasser in der Zutatenliste richtig kennzeichnen - Beitragsbild

The labelling of water in the list of ingredients of bakery products is based on the proportions by weight in the finished product. The amount of water in the final product is calculated by subtracting the other ingredients from the total weight. Sounds complicated? We will make it clear to you with a simple calculation example:

The recipe for a loaf of bread is quite simple: 400 g flour, 250 g water, 50 g linseed, 25 g yeast and 5 g salt. During baking, some of the water evaporates due to the heat generated. Before baking, all the ingredients mixed weigh 730 g. The finished bread weighs only 630 g. Accordingly, it still contains 150 g of water. The water should therefore be in second place before the linseed in the list of ingredients, as the proportion in the end product is higher here. A crispbread, on the other hand, would weigh considerably less than 530 g after baking due to its nature. Accordingly, the water would be listed further down the list of ingredients. The simple rule of thumb is: If the water content in the end product is less than 5 %, the information in the list of ingredients may be omitted altogether.

By following the above points, your ingredient lists will definitely not fall flat!