Ingredients must be listed in descending order (by ingoing weight). This means that when the food was manufactured, the first ingredient listed contributed the largest amount and the last ingredient listed contributed the least. For example, if sugar is listed near the start of the list the product contains a greater proportion of this ingredient.
If the product contains added water, it must be listed in the ingredient list according to its ingoing weight, with an allowance made for any water lost during processing, e.g. water lost as steam. The only exceptions are when the added water:
- makes up less than 5% of the finished product,
- is part of a broth, brine or syrup that is listed in the ingredient list, or
- is used to reconstitute dehydrated ingredients.
Sometimes compound ingredients are used in a food. A compound ingredient is an ingredient made up of two or more ingredients e.g. canned spaghetti in tomato sauce, where the spaghetti is made up of flour, egg and water. All the ingredients which make up a compound ingredient must be declared in the ingredient list, except when the compound ingredient is used in amounts of less than 5% of the final food. An example of a compound ingredient that could be less than 5% of the final food is the tomato sauce (consisting of tomatoes, capsicum, onions, water and herbs) on a frozen pizza.
However, if an ingredient that makes up a compound ingredient is a known allergen it must be declared regardless of how much is used.
Most packaged foods have to carry labels which show the percentage of the key or characterising ingredients or components in the food. This allows you to compare similar products.
The characterising ingredient for strawberry yoghurt would be strawberries and the label would say, for example, 9% strawberries. An example of a characterising component could be the cocoa solids in chocolate. Some foods, such as white bread or cheese, may have no characterising ingredients or characterising components.