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LCQ20: Nutrition labelling

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung (in the absence of the Secretary for Food and Health) in the Legislative Council today (May 23):


     The legislation on nutrition labelling has come into force for nearly two years since July 2010.  Regarding the implementation of the legislation, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities have recently conducted any survey to ascertain the level of awareness of the public about nutrition labelling and the changes in their attitude and behaviour towards choosing of food products; if they have, of the results;

(b) given that since the beginning of this year, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) tested and discovered that the information on the nutrition labels of various kind of food products is seriously inaccurate, how CFS made public such incidents and whether press releases were issued; of the approach adopted by the authorities to handle and act in response to non-compliant cases since the implementation of the aforesaid legislation; of the change in the frequency of conducting sample tests of food products to verify the information on nutrition labels; the details of the non-compliant cases, including a list of food products involved, the items on their labels which were inaccurate, as well as the numbers of warning letters issued, requests for rectifying the irregularities and prosecutions instituted, etc.; and

(c) whether the authorities have reviewed if the current approach in handling non-compliant cases is too lenient, and whether the public are unable to know clearly which food products' nutrition labels contain inaccurate information; if so, of the review results; whether the authorities will step up enforcement and prosecution efforts, and make public as soon as possible the list of food products with inaccurate information on their nutrition labels to enable the public to make informed choices; if they will not, of the reasons for that?


     The Nutrition Labelling Scheme (the Scheme) for pre-packaged food products aims to: (a) assist consumers in making informed food choices; (b) encourage food manufacturers to apply sound nutrition principles in the formulation of food products; and (c) regulate misleading or deceptive labels and claims.  The Scheme covers nutrition labelling and nutrition claims (which includes nutrient content claim , nutrient comparative claim and nutrient function claim).

     The Scheme has come into force since July 1, 2010.  To facilitate its implementation, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) has been carrying out a variety of publicity and education programmes to enhance public understanding of the Scheme.  Following the three-year Publicity and Education Campaign which ended in June 2011, CFS has launched a two-year enhancement programme on nutrition labelling since July 2011 to sustain the efforts in promoting the use of the nutrition information on labels by consumers for healthier food choices.

     In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre in June 2011 which interviewed over 1 000 citizens, nearly 80% agreed that the implementation of the Scheme had assisted them in making healthier food choices.  Over half of them considered that the Scheme had enhanced their confidence in the nutrient content and nutrition claims on pre-packaged food products.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) CFS has commissioned an independent consultant to conduct a survey to find out the public's knowledge, attitude and practice regarding nutrition labelling.  This survey is modelled on a similar one conducted by CFS in 2008 and a comparison will be made between the findings of the two surveys.  This survey is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

(b) Since the commencement of the Scheme on July 1, 2010, CFS has checked (as at May 4, 2012) the nutrition labels of 19 680 pre-packaged food products, with 190 found to be non-compliant with the requirements of the Scheme.  The overall compliance rate is 99.03%.

     Of the 190 non-compliant food products, 122 were identified by visual checking on labels for not complying with the statutory "1+7" labelling requirements and the remaining 68 by chemical analysis on the inaccuracy of the nutrition labels and nutrition claims.  Details are at the Annex.  The cases involved different categories of food, including beverage, snack, soya bean sauce, milk product, meat product, cereal and grain product, etc.

     Out of the 190 non-compliant cases, nutrition labels were rectified in 108 cases, products in 77 cases were removed from shelves, and five cases are being followed up.  CFS has issued a total of 93 warning letters regarding the irregularities.  If the food trader concerned fails to take any actions to comply with the requirements of the Scheme upon the expiry date stated in the warning letter, CFS will initiate prosecution.  Most of the traders involved in non-compliant cases have been co-operative.  They have either stopped selling the product concerned or rectified the nutrition label according to the statutory requirements.  There is no need for CFS to initiate any prosecution so far.

     The surveillance results of CFS on pre-packaged food products since the commencement of the Scheme on July 1, 2010 with details of the non-compliant cases have been reported at the meetings of the Legislative Council Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene on July 12, 2011 and May 8, 2012.

(c) In the first year of implementing the Scheme, CFS adopted a flexible approach in handling cases of irregularities.  Upon detection of irregularities, such as incomplete nutrition label and discrepancy between the stated nutrient content on the nutrition label and test result, CFS would first issue a letter to the retailer/manufacturer/importer concerned requesting an explanation within 21 days.  If the explanation was not accepted by CFS, a warning letter would be issued requiring actions to comply with the Scheme within 60 days.  For traders who failed to do so, CFS would initiate prosecution.

     Taking into account the operational experience gained during the first year of the Scheme, CFS has tightened up its enforcement strategy since July 1, 2011.  Where irregularities such as incomplete nutrition label are identified, CFS will issue a warning letter to the retailer/manufacturer/importer concerned requiring actions to rectify the irregularities and comply with the Scheme within 60 days.  For discrepancy between the actual nutrient content based on test result and the stated value on the nutrition label, CFS will issue a letter to the retailer/ manufacturer/ importer concerned requesting an explanation within 21 days.  If the explanation is not accepted by CFS, a warning letter requiring an alteration of labels to comply with the Scheme within 39 days will then be issued.  In case the non-compliant food item remains on sale, CFS will initiate prosecution.

     The Government has implemented the Scheme mainly to facilitate members of the public to make informed choices when purchasing food.  No food safety risks are involved even if there are discrepancies between the declared values on nutrition labels and test results.  From March 2012 onwards, a monthly report is published in the last week of the month on the CFS website, summarising nutrition labelling compliance testing results of the previous month, including the number of food samples tested, the number of non-compliant samples and their names, and details of the food samples with discrepancies between their declared nutrient values and test results.  Relevant information can be found in the website (

Ends/Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Issued at HKT 12:04


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