Food packaging regulations to take effect in 2013

Regulations on food packaging will take effect from Jan. 1, 2013, in a bid to guide the public in making food choices and reduce risks of chronic non-communicable diseases, a senior supervision official with China's Ministry of Health said Monday. The regulations will provide standard nutritional information on food packaging labels, through which consumers can directly identify a product's nutritional structure and ingredients, said Su Zhi, the official, at a press conference. The content of four kinds of nutritional elements, including protein, fat, carbohydrate and sodium, as well as the calorie count should be labeled on the packages, Su said. Moreover, the regulations stipulate specific rules on labeling other nutritional content, names and functions, Su added. Su said the regulations were first devised in 2007, based on experiences provided by international food societies as well as the country's own situation. "China faces a severe situation of chronic non-communicable diseases, and information on the packages will help consumers avoid the intake of unhealthy elements, such as saturated fat and cholesterol, and increase the ingestion of dietary fibers," Su said. According to the World Health Organization, 74.3 percent of countries in the world have made regulations on food packaging, Su said. Su said a transitional period has been established ahead of the regulations going into effect. Food manufacturers are encouraged to follow the regulations before 2013, but after Jan. 1, 2013, the entire food industry should strictly execute the food packaging regulations, Su said. Also at the conference, Yang Yuexin, a nutrition expert with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that since 2002, the Ministry of Health has carried out surveys on people's recognition of nutritional labeling. "We have many statistics on the feasibility of standardizing food packaging," Yang said, adding that she is willing to write articles to popularize scientific knowledge.

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