Buying grocery with a buddy is a fun activity but accompanying with the one who spends a lot more time in looking at the ingredients list and sometimes goes too far to decode the “secret food labels” is often a less tolerable company, but it is a healthy idea that is worth the time consumed and reflects the importance of knowing what we are eating. Everyone talks about food availability for the growing world population, yet the major concern remains the quality of existing food material that is often overlooked by consumers. The food manufacturers “release” the foods that suit best to our taste, compromising a lot on the quality and standards of nutritional contents. The food marketing in the race of promoting a brand or new food product goes to the extent of clothing a wolf in to sheep skin. For instance, the marketing of non-dairy tea whiteners as milk alternative has already been reported to be misguiding and imposes adverse health effects to a common consumer among 49% of vulnerable illiterate Pakistani population, who does not have a slight idea that what food label says. However, being just literate is not always educated enough to decode the food labels and identify the ingredients that turn food into a foe. Major Foes in Food Industry Food colour: From eye-catching candies, sweets (mithai), bakery items, flavored drinks and desserts (ice creams/jams/jellies), snacks (Kurkuray/slanty) to domestic cooking, food coloring remains an essential ingredient. However, in low price street food and cheap food items, use of synthetic food colours that are most often detrimental to human health and of course carry no beneficial nutrient at all is prevalent. Synthetic food dyes may cause allergic reactions, behavioral changes such as irritability and depression, hives, gastrointestinal irritability, asthma and hyperactivity in some people especially children, and few food dyes also contain cancer causing agents. Red 40, Red 3, Blue 1, Blue 2, Green 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 are listed among the most harmful food dyes. Most often, food colours are not labeled on the locally sold food items in Pakistan and use of textile colours and grounded red brick powder to colour local food products has been reported. Few artificial colour codes are: 102, 110, 122, 123, 124, 127, 129, 132, 133, 142, 151, 155. Mark it, if not used frequently, not all artificial food colours are unsafe. Artificial sweetener: With the continues prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity in Pakistani population, artificial sweeteners have become magic bullets to replace the regular sugar and provide the taste of sweetness without any calories. Very commonly used artificial sweeteners are aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame, neotame, sorbitol and mannitol sold with different brand names in Pakistan. Here the consumers need to know that those artificial sweeteners are not only non-nutritive in nature but also tend to cause various metabolic syndromes. In easy words, the frequent use of artificial sweeteners with the aim to control weight gain or blood sugar levels, overstimulates the sugar receptors causing an addiction to sweet taste, declines the appeal to less sweet natural food items (fruits and vegetables) and also tricks the body into feeling full that causes deprivation from taking nutritious foods. Many brands feel sufficient to label only artificial sweetener added to their products, hence keeping the consumers uninformed from the information of real ingredients used. Better to stay with natural sweeteners (there are so many on counter now) in less quantity uptake and exercise daily! Artificial flavoring substances and preservatives: Want to grab a quick snack or canned tin food item and you read the label saying MSG (monosodium glutamate) added or codes ranging from E 620 to E 625 (artificial flavor enhancers), then its time to keep the item back in rack, as you are seriously going to invite metabolic disorders, on top of the list is obesity. For the domestic cooks, it is important to know that Chinese salt contains MSG and unknowingly the consumption of large doses disturbs the glutamate balance inside the body resulting in neurotoxicity and water retention that ends up into various health problems. Again you find a food item in the grocery store with an extensively out stretched shelf life, better to turn it down as those products are piled up with heaps of stabilizers and preservatives; the chemicals (mostly synthetic) that help food to hold the flavor and texture for a longer time period as well as prevent the food from spoilage. The preservatives 200-203, 210-213, 220-228, 249-252 and 280-283 are few among the list that cause serious health issues if taken frequently. I emphasize again here, check the food label to limit the intake of those food additives. A much needed public awareness! Most of the above mentioned food additives are approved by FDA and are generally recognized as safe, but the point is that their frequent utilization is associated with potential health risks. Many of us might not have enough available time to prepare a meal from scratch, but at least can stay up to choosing the least processed food items and for that the difference between processed and ultra-processed foods is needed to be known by general public. The idea is not to create public fear for food products or consumers distrust in nutritional content of the products, but to emphasis the provision of right and truthful information to consumers. It is important to have basic knowledge about food labels and a habit to read labels to identify any harmful ingredient that may cause damage to health. Apart from that, consumers must be provided with an explicit, clear and easy message on food labels. Natural alternatives are always available for unhealthy food ingredients provided how food science and genetic engineering play its role in introducing the natural substitutes and manufacturing ideas to meet the commercial demands. More scientific input is needed in this regard to alternate the artificial/non-natural synthetic food additives with nature based ingredients. Dr. Simab Kanwal (QAU and CU alumna, Lindau Nobel Laureates alumna), is a researcher in the field of Biochemistry and Biotechnology.