Behind the Label: read and download the best articles

Behind the Label Supplement 2011
The Ecologist has produced a printable PDF magazine of the best articles from our popular Behind the Label series

From unearthing the chemical nasties in your body cream to revealing what’s really in your bottle of tomato ketchup, the column has been scrutinising the contents of your shopping basket for more than six years. Whether it’s the presence of unhealthily large amounts of glucose in your Lucozade or the use of rayon in tampon manufacture, the column has repeatedly shown that many of the products showing up on a supermarket shelf near you aren’t nearly as safe as they claim to be.

But it isn’t just questionable ingredients that writer and former Ecologist editor, Pat Thomas, has discovered. Along with health concerns, environmental issues surrounding these products are legion. Tuna, for instance, not only contains mercury – a toxin affecting the central nervous system – but the purse seine method most commonly used to catch it leaves death and devastation in its wake. Dolphins, sharks, rays and even turtles have fallen victim to our appetite for this fish; making a mockery of supermarket claims that their product is ‘dolphin friendly’ in the process.

With this column coming to an end, this special edition of Behind the Label rounds up some of our all time favourites – shedding light on the average supermarket shop and recommending some healthier, greener alternatives. Not only will you know exactly what you’re buying, you’ll also know where it’s from and what it does. And that, in today’s chemical-obsessed world, is essential knowledge indeed.

Download a FREE printable PDF magazine of this year’s Behind the Label supplement.

The original articles can be found below.


Behind the Label: Lucozade

Biological rocket fuel they may be, but ‘sports’ drinks can be a danger to health in the long term... Read more


Behind the Label: Calpol

The season of flu (and fear of swine flu) is upon us. But before you reach for this sticky pink cocktail dished out by doctors and parents as a cure-all for children, think again... Read more


Behind the Label: Nivea

It’s a name we all grew up with. In some form or another Nivea – the world’s first water-in-oil cream – has been the most popular and trusted hand and body lotion since it first emerged in 1911. Are we being naïve about nivea? Read More

Cut Flowers

Behind the Label: Cut Flowers

What's the real price of your bouquet? Pat Thomas dishes the dirt on cut flower production in less-industrialised countries... Read more

Nutrigrain Bars

Behind the Label: Kelloggs Nutri-Grain Bars

If you 'deskfast' with sugary, fat-filled cereal bars instead of eating a good breakfast you could be doing untold damage to your body and mind... Read More


Behind the Label: Tampons

From synthetic fibres to lethal dioxins, some sanitary products are a lot less innocent than those glossy television ads would have women believe... Read more

Comfort Fabric Softner

Behind the Label: Comfort Fabric Softener

Soft towels, fluffy fleeces and synthetic fabrics don’t cling. What’s not to like? Well, try skin irritation, increased flammability and environmental pollution, for starters. It seems the average bottle of fabric softener has a dark side... Read more

Fairy Liquid

Behind the Label: Fairy Liquid

The bird is now bones, the gravy glue, the roast veggies are on their way to becoming a source of winter fuel and as soon as everyone’s dinner has gone down a bit, it will be time to do the washing-up. If you are one of the 64 per cent of households in the UK that doesn’t own a dishwasher, chances are there will be a trusty bottle of Fairy Liquid by the sink to get the job of washing-up done... Read more

Head and Shoulders

Behind the Label: Head and Shoulders

It’s time to come clean, says Pat Thomas – anti-dandruff shampoos are nothing but advertising puff and chemicals... Read more

Tinned Tuna

Behind the Label: Tuna

You may think that by avoiding the near-extinct bluefin you're off the hook and can tuck into other types of tuna. Think again... Read more

Pot Noodle

Behind the Label: Pot Noodles

Marketed as the ultimate quick food fix, 240 Pot Noodles are eaten every minute in Britain. But what exactly is in the 'slag of all snacks'? Pat Thomas on fats, salt and flavour enhancers... Read more


Behind the Label: Actimel

The human gut is a unique ecosystem and the hallmark of any healthy ecosystem is the presence of a diversity of micro-organisms. If you are a slave to probiotic drinks you could be encouraging an unhealthy imbalance... Read More


Behind the Label: Ketchup

It's the condiment of choice for a million fast-food outlets and a staple sauce in homes around the world, but there's more to tomato ketchup than meets the eye... Read more