Industry standard

Over 90% of nutrition labels fail to meet industry standards in Hong Kong

According to the latest Hong Kong Consumer Council study, 48 out of 55 pre-packaged food sample nutrition labels did not meet recommended guidelines, i.e. 87% of nutrition labels were non-compliant.

Consumer Council staff randomly purchased 55 prepackaged foods for the study. Items included five types of baked goods, cakes, cereals, four types of butter and cheese, three types of soy products, four types of refrigerated and frozen foods, three types of dairy and non-dairy milk , eight kinds of beverages and beverages, five kinds of cookies, seven kinds of snacks, five kinds of instant noodles, four kinds of canned foods, and seven kinds of cooking oil or sauces.

Referring to industry guidelines, the Council then evaluated three types of data on product labels to determine their clarity and readability for consumers.

Of the 55 items, only the text on seven labels met the minimum size requirements. The label printing of the rest of the items in English or Chinese was smaller than the sizes offered. Many of them were nutrition labels but unreadable.

The Consumer Council invited 15 people with normal eyesight, aged 20 to 61 or older, and categorized them into five age groups. All five groups rated the clarity and readability of information on food labels.

The groups determined that only one item complied with the industry guide. Participants agreed that there was room for improvement in the other 54 labels.

The text size on over 90% of the labels in the sample was too small to read. On a packet of instant noodles, the fonts were only 0.3mm (0.012 inches) and 0.5mm (0.02 inches) tall, well below the recommended size. Even for those with normal eyesight, the words were too small to read.

The Center for Food Security in Hong Kong recommended a font height of 1.2 mm (approximately 0.05 inch) unless the package size is too small, in which case a minimum font size of at least 0.8 mm (0.03 inch) for English letters and 1.8 mm (0.07 inch) for Chinese characters must be provided.

The Consumer Council said traders are required to provide clear and legible information on labels so consumers can get accurate product information. He suggested the food industry use larger fonts when printing labels, so that consumers, especially the elderly, can easily get correct information.