Philippines FDA and Food Industry Launch Nutrition Labelling Campaign

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Philippines and the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers have teamed up to help encourage the voluntary implementation of front-of-pack nutrition labels, and drive nutritional literacy in the country.

Jointly launching a national awareness campaign last month, they aim to encourage food and beverage manufacturers to adopt easy to use nutrition labelling, based on internationally-recognised Guideline Daily Amounts or GDAs. These efforts support ongoing national initiatives to encourage healthier lifestyles in the Philippines.

In a press statement, FDA Director Dr. Kenneth Hartigan Go said: “At present, nutrition facts are printed on the back of every product. But when they are stacked in the supermarket, what consumers immediately see is the front of the pack. This now becomes the gap that we want to address to help consumers make informed choices – hence, the introduction of the front-of-pack nutrition labelling.”

A recent study, conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute found five out of 10 Filipino consumers do not check nutrition labels before consuming a product, despite 76.6 per cent of respondents agreeing that nutrition facts influence their purchasing decision.

Encouraging manufacturers to adopt front-of-pack labelling will make labelling more visible on supermarket shelves, and encourage “Filipino consumers to make informed choices towards a healthier lifestyle”, Mr Go said.

Mr Go added in the statement: “The labels…help [consumers] become more knowledgeable about the nutritional value… of the food they buy. There are no good or bad foods as long as they are taken in appropriate proportions and paired with regular physical activity. The FOP nutrition labelling is only the first step in the national campaign to empower consumers.”

Food Chamber President, Edith A. de Leon, says the campaign is aimed at raising awareness about the importance of nutrition labelling in encouraging healthier choices, and increasing the voluntary adoption of front-of-pack GDAs by food and beverage manufacturers. It is part of the Food Chamber’s 2012 commitment to “partner with the Department of Health to deliver workable solutions” to encourage healthier lifestyles.

“Front-of-pack labels provide consumers with a clear, simple and comprehensive approach to make better informed food choices. The information on the labels can help consumers understand how their food choices can have an impact on their overall diet – and this is a crucial first step in supporting healthier lifestyles in the country,” she said.

Ms De Leon added that the Food Chamber actively supports the rollout of the front-of-pack labelling system and is committed to working with the Government in delivering solutions that help consumers make better diet choices.

“We recognise that the challenges we face cannot be addressed by a single group, but through a collective effort. We are committed to our role in advocating and supporting the Government’s initiatives that advance the health and well-being of our consumers.

“Encouraging front-of-pack nutrition labelling is only the beginning of this commitment.

“The Food Chamber will also be implementing nutrition education programmes that will be rolled out in the national and grassroots levels. These programmes have started in schools, with the intention of educating the young on how to read and understand the content on the food labels,” Ms De Leon informed.

In addition to introducing the front-of-pack labelling system, the Philippines has also launched other initiatives to encourage consumers to practise a healthy and active lifestyle. The “Pilipinas Go4Health ” programme provides one example of such initiatives which seek to encourage people to be committed to proper nutrition and physical activity.

Ms De Leon added: “The Philippines food and beverage industry is dedicated to introducing and implementing a multi-faceted approach to not only promote nutrition literacy, but also physical activity to encourage people to adopt a healthier lifestyle.”

This collaborative approach to voluntary front-of-pack GDA labelling follows similar initiatives in other South East Asian countries, such as the Government-backed introduction of voluntary GDA labelling in Malaysia in 2012 and the launch of a voluntary GDA initiative in Singapore in 2013.

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