Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

REPORT ON CONSULTATION EXERCISE FOR AMENDMENTS TO FOOD LABELLING LEGISLATION

PURPOSE

This paper reports the result of the consultation exercise on the proposed amendments to existing food labelling requirements.

BACKGROUND

2. Under Schedule 3 of the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labellling) Regulations (the Regulations), Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance (Cap. 132), prepackaged foods are required to be marked or labelled with the following information -

  1. name or designation of the food product;

  2. list of ingredients and food additives;

  3. durability period;

  4. special condition for storage or instruction for use;

  5. name and address of manufacturer or packer; and

  6. count, weight or volume.

3. We sought Members' views in July and September 2000 on our proposals to introduce the following new additional labelling requirements:

  1. food labels should declare the presence of substances which are known to cause allergy in some individuals;

  2. food labels should specifically indicate the type of the food additives used, either in the additives' full name or identification code number;

  3. the format required in marking the "best before" or "use by" date should be made more flexible to the trade and clearer to consumers; and

  4. the labelling requirements on alcoholic drinks should be strengthened.

CONSULTATION EXERCISE

4. We informed Members that we would conduct a trade cum public consultation exercise from mid October to late December 2000. For Members' easy reference, a copy of the consultation paper is at Annex A.We have issued some 1 200 copies of the consultation paper to all major stakeholders, including related trade associations, food importers and manufacturers, chained supermarkets and department stores, consulates, medical professional bodies and the Consumer Council. The consultation paper was uploaded onto our homepage (http://www.info.gov.hk/fehd) and its summary is published in our quarterly Food Safety Bulletin. We have also given press interviews and these were covered in local newspapers.

5. At the end of the consultation period, we have received 29 written submissions and 49 enquiries (enquires are submissions which do not contain any comments). There is general support from the trade, the medical profession and the consumers. Some members of the trade suggested a longer grace period and greater flexibility in key words used on food labels. Most of these suggestions are technical in nature and we shall give them due considerations during the drafting of the amendment regulation. Members may wish to refer to Annex B for a summary of the views collected.

6. In accordance with established and agreed procedures, we have notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) and through its notification system consulted the international community on our proposed amendments. We have not received any objections from members of the WTO within the notification period.

7. On 22 January 2001, we presented our proposals to the LegCo Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene. The Panel generally supported the proposals.

WAY FORWARD

8. Subject to any further views Members may have, we will proceed with the drafting of the amendment regulation. We intend to introduce the amendment regulation to LegCo for negative vetting by mid 2001.

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department
January 2001

 

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