Consumer watchdog seeks labelling regulations as tests show big disparities in actual and claimed sugar and fibre contents Evidence of sugar levels far greater than what is declared on the labels and inaccurate claims of fibre content on a range of breakfast cereals have triggered renewed calls for an immediate introduction of a mandatory labelling system for packaged food. Tests by the Consumer Council on 28 samples of cereal products have revealed 'considerable discrepancies' between what is claimed on the label, and the actual contents. 'One baby cereal had 87 per cent more sugar, while some wheat products had 25 per cent more,' said Ching Pak-chung, the vice-chairman of the council's publicity and community relations panel. The actual fibre content ranged from more than three times the claimed amount in the case of Natural Flavour First Choice Instant Cereal Drink to a third less in the case of First Choice Muesli Natural High Fibre Low Salt. Other popular brands, such as Post Selects Blueberry Morning and Kellogg's Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes, were found to be 30 per cent and 22 per cent short of the stated fibre content, respectively. Baby Organix Apple and Raspberry Cereal contained 168 per cent more fibre than what the label declared while the Original Flavour Quaker Cereal Beverage contained 92 per cent more fibre. Instant cereals were generally found to have better fibre content, with flakes and pop-style cereals containing lower levels of fibre. The tests also found a very high level of sugar in a third of the samples, with sugar contents reaching over 20 grams per serving. Discrepancies between the claimed and actual sugar contents of the tested cereal products ranged from an excess of 87 per cent in the Baby Organix Apple and Raspberry Cereal to a 25 per cent surplus in Kellogg's All Bran Natural High Fibre Wheat Bran. Nutritionists warn that the absence of accurate nutritional information on food products can pose a health risk to consumers suffering from allergies or diseases such as diabetes. 'Correct labelling is a must for meal planning,' said nutritionist and registered dietitian Ivan Chug Ying-ming, who is also an assistant professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Milk products tested by the council fared better in terms of accurately following the claimed calcium and fat contents. Skim milk samples contained less fat than 'low fat' samples, while both types were lower in fat content than fresh milk. But five of 10 samples contained slightly less calcium than declared on the label. In light of these findings, the Consumer Council yesterday renewed its call on the government to regulate the labelling of food products. The government has undertaken to phase in such a system over the next five to 10 years. The council also believes that labels should be standardised. 'There is, for instance, no clear legal definition of terms used in nutrient content claims such as 'high', 'low' and 'free', or in comparative claims such as 'reduced', 'more' and 'less' when referring to a particular nutrient,' said Professor Ching.