Wednesday, May 07, 2008

76% of people will sign anything that says "keep healthier products on shelves"

The Hong Kong Retail Management Association has been campaigning in the past few weeks to get consumers on their side regarding the government's new proposed legislation on mandatory nutrition labelling on pre-packaged food sold in Hong Kong.

You might have seen this in a PnS near you. A well dressed young-ish woman standing at the exit, under a sign that says "ACT NOW - HELP KEEP 15,000 HEALTHIER PRODUCTS ON SHELVES". Next to her is a small table with various boxes of imported biscuits, cereal, drinks, what not. As you go pass she will ask you to sign a petition to protest against the govt's new scheme.

Now, why would a mandatory nutrition labelling scheme, which is obviously intended to promote healthy eating, keep "healthier products" off shelves?

The HKRMA leaflet reads "products that make nutrition claims, such as those that are labelled 'transfat-free', 'contains omega-3', '25% less fat', 'low sodium', and 'cholesterol-free'" will need to re-label, by specifying what exactly it is about their nutritional values that justify those claims. The HKRMA thinks this requirement is unreasonable, since "all of these products already have extensive nutrition labelling that complies with the labelling laws of the country of origin", and as HK is only a small part of the market for these products, it does not make sense for the producers or importers to go through the tests required by the new HK laws or do the re-labelling.

I didn't sign the petition. But apparently 120,000 consumers did.

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