Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety says that the new food additive labeling requirements under the Food and Drugs Regulation 2004 would take effect on July 10, 2007.
Speaking at a press conference, the Centre for Food Safety's Consultant, Dr. Ho Yuk-yin, said the regulation was amended in July, 2004, as part of the government's efforts to enhance food safety and consumer interests. "A three-year grace period was given then to allow the trade sufficient time to comply with new labeling requirements," Dr. Ho said.
One of the new requirements under the regulation is that both the names (such as benzoic acid, sulphur dioxide, Sunset Yellow FCF and sodium saccharin) and functional classes (such as preservative, antioxidant, colour and sweetener) of the additives used in a prepackaged food must be listed on the food label.
"The CFS follows the international trend and requires a more detailed labeling of the food additives used in prepackaged food. Consumers can make more suitable choices accordingly. For example, some people need to avoid certain types of food additives such as sulphites because they are allergic to them or may develop ill effects upon consuming them. By requiring a more detailed labeling of the food additives used, the Regulation would further protect public health," Dr. Ho said.
When labeling the name of the food additives used, the trade can list their names or their identification numbers under the International Numbering System for Food Additives.
The CFS has prepared "The Consumer Guide to Food Additives" booklets and publicity leaflets for the public to better understand the INS for Food Additives. The information has also been uploaded onto the CFS website.
To assess the current situation of labeling food additives, the Centre for Food Safety had conducted a survey at a number of supermarkets and stores. Some 1,000 prepackaged foods were included in the survey. Results of the survey showed that more than 80% of the food additive labels had already met the new labeling requirements.
Those labels which did not meet the new requirements mainly failed to provide the functional classes or names of the food additives used.