China gets tough on food labelling

China has introduced draconian labelling measures that will strictly control health claims and make it one of the world's strictest food labelling systems as it continues to improve the systems governing its food supply.

The new rules take effect on May 1 and call for detailed label information while clamping down on health claim hyperbole. The Chinese Health Ministry stated the regulations will:

  • Prohibit low fat or high in calcium claims unless products meet nutrition profiles;
  • Prohibit specific health benefit claims;
  • Require declaration of fat, protein, salt and carbohydrates;
  • Require specified detail on labels (the detail of which is yet to be clarified);
  • Prohibit false or exaggerated benefit claims, including disease or illness curative claims.

"The rules stress that nutritional labelling must be accurate and objective," the Ministry said. "They must not make false claims nor exaggerate the nutritional benefits of the product. Labels must also not make direct or indirect claims of curing illness."

The Chinese parliament is pondering a food safety bill that, if passed in draft form, will stringently control food imports and exports. "Imported food should be in accordance with the national food safety standards and labeling system," the draft stated. "Exported food should meet the requirements of destination countries and pass the examination of inspection and quarantine institutions of foreign countries."

It proposes a food safety risk evaluation mechanism, a more stringent recall system and an ancillary system to monitor food production, processing, delivery, storage and sales.

A Chinese government survey showed two-thirds of Chinese are concerned about food safety while a fifth have no confidence in drinking water safety.

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