Trying to take a flexible approach to nutrition labels from different countries
I refer to a suggestion by Marco Lau to add a 'legible labels' definition to Hong Kong's nutrition labelling law in the letter ('Make labels big enough to read', February 24).
At present, the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulations (Cap. 132 W) require the following information to be legibly marked on the food label of all prepackaged food, unless otherwise exempted - name of the food; list of ingredients; indication of durability; special conditions for storage or instruction for use; count, weight or volume; name and address of manufacturer or packer; and nutrition label.
Although the trade has liberty to design the food labels of its products, it is also important for traders to note the legal requirement on legibility and to show all mandatorily required information clearly.
In order to address public concern over legibility of nutrition labels, the Centre for Food Safety of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department has developed a set of guidelines 'Trade Guidelines on Preparation of Legible Food Label'.
The guidelines aim to assist the trade to provide legible information on food labels and set out principles for designing 'legible' food labels, including suitable font size, good contrast and enough spacing.
The guidelines will also contain examples of legible and illegible food labels.
We are finalising the trade guidelines, taking into consideration views gathered in the last few months.
We aim to release the guidelines to the trade by April. The draft guidelines can be found at the following internet address: http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/committee/Draft_Trade_Guidelines_on_NL_leg....
As the majority of Hong Kong's prepackaged food is imported, we must seek to strike a balance between providing useful information to assist consumers making informed food choices and minimise the effect on food choice of our consumers.
Since different labelling methods are adopted by different jurisdictions, and stipulating a rigid format will necessitate relabelling of the food products of certain countries, we consider that we should allow flexibility in this area.
Dr Ho Yuk-yin, consultant (community medicine), Centre for Food Safety, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department