|18 July, 2019

Accurate food labelling urged to improve health standards

Less than 10 out of 120 food labels on bakery products are accurate

Image used for illustrative purpose. A shopper pushes a trolley in a supermarket in London, Britain April 11, 2017.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A shopper pushes a trolley in a supermarket in London, Britain April 11, 2017.

REUTERS/Neil Hall

Less than 10 out of 120 food labels on bakery products are accurate, a new survey has found.

It was conducted by the Health Ministry as part of efforts to ensure consumers were aware of ingredients in the food items they purchase and to improve health standards in the country.

A team from the ministry conducted a field study in which they collected samples of baked goods from various markets and uncovered that almost none of the bakeries were following proper guidelines for correctly labelling ingredients.

Details of the survey were revealed yesterday during a workshop held for bakeries at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI).

While proper labelling is legally required for such goods, Health Ministry nutrition section head and public health consultant Dr Buthaina Ajnan said there has been an oversight in favour of focusing on quality and safety of products.

However, she told the GDN that the ministry has pledged to rectify the issue and guide bakeries on the importance of packing their products with accurate nutrition facts label.

“Out of a sample of 120 products that were collected, only seven per cent had proper labelling that was up to standards,” she said.

“The customer must have the right to choose and compare between various products and see which is best for them in terms of salt, fat and preservatives.

“So, when this information is reduced or hidden or written in a small font with bad printing, you’re not letting the customer choose for themselves based on what’s best for them – they will go on appearances and brand.

“We want to encourage a culture of label reading, even more so now when it has become trendy to be more health conscious.

“It is the customer’s right to choose and it is our duty to ensure the producers provide the best possible product and let the customers decide.

“Some labels only said flour, yeast, sugar, but how much flour? How much yeast? Are there really no preservatives? No salt?”

As part of the same initiative the ministry is also working on reducing salts, trans fats and preservatives in bread in a bid to reduce health risks associated with consuming too much of these ingredients.

Public Health assistant under-secretary Dr Maryam Al Hajiri, who was also present at the meeting, said the ministry has developed an integrated plan and strategy aimed at raising the health level of the society as a whole.

“It is no secret that continuous changes in modern life, accompanied by a wide and varied change in dietary habits and behaviours, as well as changes within the food industry, has led to excessive consumption of several ingredients such as salt, sugars and trans fats,” said Dr Al Hajiri.

“Based on the recommendations of the World Health Organisation we have adopted policies and measures that limit the rise in the prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases and contribute to the achievement of the goals of sustainable development and the objectives of the National Health Plan.”

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