Improve Nutrition Facts label on food packaging

PHOTO: Improve Nutrition Facts label on food packaging

SINGAPORE - Most food packaging come with Nutrition Facts labels, which show information such as how many calories and how much protein, sodium and fat there are in the food.

The way the information is presented can be improved in the following ways:

Some labels use the word "energy" instead of "calories". This should be standardised, as it may cause confusion among consumers.

Very often, the phrase "per serving" is used. This is not helpful as "serving" is not a standard unit and the size of a serving can vary greatly.

Sometimes, the nutrients are measured in "per 100g" or "100ml". However, it is better to tell the consumer the total amount of nutrients in the food, instead of breaking the figures down into "per serving", "per 100g" or "per 100ml" measurements.

If a consumer is tempted to eat the entire contents of bigger packages of food, knowing these figures will be useful and may deter him from doing so.

The recommended daily nutritional intake for adults should be printed on the label.

The label could be colour-coded by using green for "good" values and red for "bad" values. For example, a low value of sodium or a high value of calcium is good, and these should be printed in green.

If a person wants food that has a low sodium content, but is unsure what constitutes a healthy amount of sodium, he just has to use the colour on the label as a guide.

This will complement the the "healthier choice" symbol that is found on some food and beverage products. The symbol was launched by the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to help promote a healthier lifestyle.

The HPB could also sell plates with the Healthy Diet Pyramid as well as the recommended daily nutritional intake printed on them to schoolchildren at a nominal price, and perhaps to the public, too.

With improved labels and more information available, I am sure we will be better equipped to look after our health.

Mr Lim Poh Seng (myp reader)

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