AS if losing weight isn't tough enough already, it is a shock to learn some so-called 'low fat' foods are sometimes misleadingly labelled. Supermarket shelves are stacked with products marketed to the weight-conscious, and many of these foods are just as fatty as junk food. This discovery assumes added importance considering that one-third of Hong Kong people are now believed to be overweight. The problem of misleading labels is not limited to Hong Kong. Food manufacturers in Britain have also been found to be producing 'low-fat' products that are nothing of the kind. But the problem is heightened here by the reliance on imported groceries. Differing standards in each country mean a packet of American chocolate biscuits might carry a detailed nutritional breakdown, while another from an Asian neighbour will carry only the barest information. That is because the US has long enjoyed strict food labelling laws. Authorities in Britain are now also drawing up tough rules. Hong Kong should be doing the same, but has so far been slow to act. This is not the first time the Health Department has received a wake-up call on the issue. The Consumer Council has raised it consistently, particularly after its 1996 survey found most 'low fat' ice-cream or frozen yoghurt sold here breached US standards. The council also urges compulsory labelling of genetically-modified food, but little has been done. The law currently makes it an offence to sell falsely labelled food, but that is too loosely worded to prevent cunning marketing executives from playing with words. Authorities will need to consider whether contents and nutritional values should be detailed in both English and Chinese. It would be good if all products carried a nutritional breakdown, but imposing restrictions could jeopardise Hong Kong's status as a free-trading port. The least that can be done is to ensure that claims are valid. Health education for consumers, particularly while they are young enough to learn proper eating habits, is urgently needed. Shoppers who know the difference between cholesterol and fat cannot be easily fooled by misleading advertising. Authorities will not only be doing the right thing by the figure-conscious in these increasingly health-oriented times. They will be raising nutritional awareness for all.