Policy decisions on nutrition labelling need to be science-based, according to the 2013 Global Update on Nutrition Labelling report from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), released in February.

The report, which includes contributions and updates on Asia from FIA, emphasises that policy decisions should take into consideration “consumer use, interpretation and understanding” of nutrition labelling and which labelling scheme “provides the best guidance from a nutritional point of view”.

The report also emphasises that awareness raising and consumer education is needed to ensure “consumers read, understand and use nutrition labels to inform their product choices”, citing Nielson’s 2011 Global Survey that reported 59 per cent of consumers worldwide have trouble understanding nutrition labels.

FIA Executive Director, Bev Postma, agrees that a science-based approach to nutrition labelling is necessary.

“As highlighted in the report, it is a person’s overall diet that impacts their health and wellness, not the consumption of individual products. Science-based guidelines such as the guideline daily amount (GDA) scheme used in many parts of the world, give consumers a better understanding of how an individual food product contributes to a balanced diet, allowing them to make more informed choices.”

Ms Postma added that with more than half of the world’s population stating that they have trouble understanding nutrition labelling, it is clear that a multi-faceted approach that includes nutrition literacy and awareness-building is needed.

“Public and private sector initiatives have been launched in countries across Asia to help drive awareness and understanding of nutrition labelling. For example, the introduction of GDA labelling in Thailand was supported by a consumer education Road Show and other industry groups in Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines are planning long term industry-led campaigns to support consumer awareness and understanding of GDA labelling,” she said.

The report further highlights that Asia as a region has seen some rapid developments in nutrition labelling, referencing a number of examples including the introduction of mandatory front-of-pack (FOP) GDA labelling on five snack categories in Thailand and the introduction of a national standard for food nutrition labelling in China.

“FIA is pleased to have contributed to this report. It provides important insights on nutrition labelling, and underpins our wider objective to encourage greater harmonisation of food standards across Asia,” Ms Postma concluded.