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Turkish Journal of Agriculture - Food Science and Technology, 3(4): 196-203, 2015

Turkish Journal of Agriculture - Food Science and Technology


www.agrifoodscience.com,
Turkish Science and Technology

Food Labeling Regulations in South Asian Association for Regional


Cooperation (SAARC) Countries: Benefits, Challenges and Implications
Sayed Mohammad Naim Khalid*
National Medicine and Food Board- Ministry of Public Health, 10 Zone, Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul, Afghanistan

ARTICLE INFO ABSTRACT


Food labels describe the content of a food and are intended to guide the consumer in food
Article history: selection. The nutrition information provided must be in consistency with legal
Received 14 July 2014 requirements and dietary recommendations. Selection of the specific nutrients or food
Accepted 22 September 2014 components to be listed should further take into account label space, the analytical
Available online, ISSN: 2148-127X feasibility of measuring the particular nutritional component within the food matrix, and
the relative costs of such analyses. Information provided on labels should be truthful and
not mislead consumers. At the same time, labeling regulations should provide incentives
Keywords: to manufacturers to develop products that promote public health and assist consumers in
Food labeling following dietary recommendations. In some countries some segments of the population
Regulations benefit from information about the composition of foods. In such cases, countries should
Harmonization consider the need to provide for appropriate labeling and its presentation relative to
Nutrition
existing regulations. Different approaches and legal requirements have been established.
These create difficulties in developing and harmonizing labels, which have broad
international applications. For these reasons, the Codex Guidelines on food labeling play
an important role to provide guidance to member countries when they want to develop or
update their national regulations and to encourage harmonization of national with
international standards. These Guidelines are based on the principle that no food should
*
Corresponding Author: be described or presented in a manner that is false, misleading or deceptive. Exchange of
E-mail: sayednaim@outlook.com information at the regional and sub-regional level is important, as each country can learn
ords: from the experience of others and regional co-ordination and co-operation can be
Metal ions, developed.
Dietary intake,
Target hazard quotients,
Introduction
Ready-to-eat-foods,
Labels on food packages aim to promote and protect
Nigeria and authority. Indeed, different groups have argued for
consumers interests by providing information on various
askin1@gmail.com their concerns to be labeled: ingredients, residues, animal
product attributes and nutrition contents of the product so welfare, allergens, environmental impact, nutrition, ethics
that the consumers can make informed dietary choices and more (Lang, 2006; Cheftel, 2004).
(Kumar, 2011; Zaidi and Bakhtiar Mohammad, 2011). At the moment, many international, scientific and
The role of food labeling in purchase decision has widely research organizations are working harmoniously to try to
been empirically researched across the world which eliminate the differences in interests and food regulations
indicate that consumers look at labels and that label among countries. These organizations include, among
information affects their purchase decision (Kumar, 2011; others, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the
Baltas, 2001; Golan et al., 2001; Cowburn and Stockley, World Trade Organization (WTO), the International
2005). The Guideline Daily Amount is viewed by the Standardization Organization (ISO) and organizations
consumers during shopping and it positively affects their such as the Global Harmonization Initiative (GHI) and the
buying behavior. Consumers preference towards a brand International Union of Food Science and Technology
is directly affected by self-control and temptation (Zaidi (IUFoST) (Lelieveld and Keener, 2007).
and Bakhtiar Mohammad, 2011). Best efforts by international organizations to enhance
Issues of food and nutrition labeling are becoming global harmonization of food standards are of
more and more important globally in view of diet-related unprecedented importance in public health and world
diseases, such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and food trade. This review discusses the current status of
cancer, which are fast becoming a burgeoning threat to food and nutrition labeling regulations in Southeast Asia
public health. Besides this, the labeling of pre-packaged and the discrepancies that exist in this regard. It also
foodstuffs is key to foreign food trade. As such, debates describes the Common Principles and Guidelines for
are progressive, ongoing and inconclusive regarding what harmonizing food labeling regulations, which food
goes into the label, the format, verifiability, size, impact experts in the region have drafted and finalized, and
Khalid, / Turkish Journal of Agriculture - Food Science and Technology, 3(4): 196-203, 2015

highlights the benefits, challenges and implications that origin, quantity or weight, ingredients, and dates of
lie ahead for member states, the food industry and manufacture and expiration. Labeling may be in English
consumers. or Bangla (Bengali) language. Baby food and foods
Brief Overview On Saarc Countries containing milk must have the products composition, the
percentage of various ingredients, and the statement
According to Ali and Talukder (2009) South Asia, There is no alternative to breastfeeding must be printed
with more than 1.4 billion people, is one of the most in Bangla on each container of baby food that contains
densely populated regions in the world. Population cream. For all food and beverage products (except for
density is 275 people per sq. km which is six times higher wine and liquor), including those that are imported, the
than that of the world average population density. This dates of manufacture and expiration must be clearly
region is the home of 23 percent of the worlds population printed. All such printing must be on the containers;
comprising an area of only 3.8 percent of the total global separately printed labels pasted on the containers are not
land. Considering the market-size in terms of population, acceptable.
SAARC is one of the largest economic blocs in the world. There is no separate law regulating the labeling
This region covers almost 67 percent of the low income requirements for food and agricultural commodities in
population of the world economy. Bangladesh. The labeling of domestically produced and
However, as measured in 2013 according to packaged condensed milk and dried milk powder are
International Monetary Fund (IMF) by gross domestic prescribed in Bangladeshs Pure Food Rules (1967)
product (GDP) as well as per capita income, the size of promulgated by the Department of Health. The
the economy of this region is very small compared to the government was granted the power to implement these
rest of the world. It accounted for 3.189 percent of rules via the Bangladesh Pure Food Ordinance of 1959.
worlds GDP. Similarly, in terms of shares in the world Although these rules detail the provisions on food
trade, South Asia is considered as an insignificant region poisoning, food coloring, preservatives in food, etc., there
which accounts only for 1.70 percent of total global trade. is no mention of the labeling requirements for packaged
Considering the size of land area, population and food items, except for condensed milk and dried milk
economy, India is by far the largest country in South powder.
Asian region; while Pakistan and Bangladesh are the
Currently, the main legal instrument that regulates the
second and third largest country respectively. It is argued
labeling requirements of imported food products is the
that, because of their size, these three economies are of
Import Policy Order 2009-12. In light of requirements in
crucial importance for successful regional integration and
the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on
cooperation; and more importantly, India and Pakistan
Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and the Agreement on
would be the dominant states of any formal regional
the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS)
integration agreements (Das, 2007; Behera, 2008).
Measures, the Product Labeling Policy was introduced in
Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal are very small economies in
2006 to ensure that no barriers are created for the
the region. The important fact is that Bhutan and Nepal
importation and exportation of goods, and to ensure that
are land-locked while Maldives is an island. Under the
imported products have proper labels. The policy refers
World Bank designated category, amongst the seven
explicitly to international labeling standards to be
countries, four economies namely Bangladesh, Bhutan,
observed in 15 sectors. In all cases of import, the country
Maldives and Nepal, are least developed countries
of origin has to be mentioned clearly on goods, packages
(LDCs); and India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka are considered
and containers. The name, address and taxpayer
developing countries. On the basis of income Bhutan,
identification number (TIN) are required to be inscribed
Maldives and Sri Lanka are lower-middle-income
or printed in indelible ink on at least 2 percent of the
countries; and Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan are
largest packet, cover, can, sack pack, wooden box or other
low-income countries (Das, 2007; World Bank, 2007).
packets containing the imported goods. For imports of all
Despite the region has been performing steadily for the
kinds of food and beverages, the dates of manufacture and
last two decades in terms of economic growth and other
expiration and net weight must clearly be embossed on
criteria, it has still remained one of the poorest regions in
each container or package. Separately printed labels are
the world.
not acceptable. Imports of wine and liquor do not require
In 2007 Afghanistan has become a member of
an expiration date.
SAARC. As this country is a new member and its
involvement is still insignificant in SAARC, this review Bhutan
hasnt included Afghanistan in food regulation analysis. Bhutan had established a National Food Inspectorate
Labeling Requirenments In Saarc Countries under the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory
Authority (BAFRA) of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Afghanistan According to Food and Nutrition Security Policy of the
Afghanistan is SAARC member country which does Kingdom of Bhutan, 2012 the food labeling systems must
not have food law yet and there are no specific legal comply with proper national requirements and enable
requirements for food product labeling. consumers to make informed food choices based on
Bangladesh labeling information. The Food Act of Bhutan of 2005
Bangladeshi regulations stipulate that all imported provides protection to human health through trade of food
food products must be labeled to indicate the country of in the Kingdom of Bhutan.
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India There is no specific mention regarding the following


According to a survey 41 percent of Indians check aspects of label of packed foods:
nutritional labels when purchasing a product for the first
time. Interestingly, consumers are most concerned with Method of consumption and any side effects of the
the nutritional information on food labels when buying product.
food products for their children (Kumar, 2011). Price of product.
The disclosure of information on food labels in India Registration number of manufacturer.
are primarily governed by the Prevention of Food Composition of products.
Adulteration Act, 1954, which has primarily focused on Standard mark of certification if given to the
the basic information of the product on the food labels product.
and put less emphasis on health and nutritional Products guarantee and guarantee time limit of
information to be given on the food labels. However, products like electric, electronics hardware and
recent amendments on packaging and labeling of food machinery parts.
under part VII of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Preventive and security measures necessary for
Rules, 1955 has mandated to disclose the health and any inflammable and hazardous.
nutritional claims on the food labels along with basic
The labeling requirements are same for domestic and
information. The new integrated Food Safety and
imported food commodities.
Standards Act (FSSA), 2006 in Chapter IV, paragraph 23
clearly states that no person shall manufacture, distribute, Pakistan
sell or expose for sale, or dispatch or deliver to any agent The Customs Departments primary functions are:
or broker for the purpose of sale any packaged food ensure that imported foods meet Pakistans labeling and
product which is not marked and labeled in the manner as shelf-life requirements prevent imports on the list of
may be specified by regulation. banned items, and assess appropriate import tariffs.
The Food Safety and Standards (packaging and Imported food products, including ingredients, must
labeling) Regulations, 2011 require that every package of have at least 50 percent of their original shelf life
food shall carry the following information on the label: remaining at the time of importation - calculated from the
(1) The trade name or description of the food item, (2) list date of filing the "Import General Manifest" (IGM) in
of ingredients, except for single ingredient foods, (3) accordance with the Customs Act of 1969. The Labels are
nutritional Information, (4) Veg and Non veg declaration. required to be English or Urdu languages.
Nepal Packages or containers must also indicate:
In Nepal the Food Act, 1966 is a legal document to
protect food consumers from food safety problems. There The date of manufacture and date of expiration,
are, however, general regulations on advertising goods That the contents are free from pork and pork
and services in the Food Act of 1966 and in the Consumer products,
Protection Act of 1997. Under the Food Act of 1966: That the contents are fit for human consumption
Clause 4. Food products cannot be sold through and that any animal product was obtained from an
misleading activities. animal slaughtered according to Halal
Under the Consumer Protection Act of 1997: Article requirements,
10. Actions which must not be take in respect to That import of edible oils is on the basis of landed
consumer goods or services: No one shall take or instigate weight and landed quality.
others to take any of the following actions in respect to That packing may not contain any word or
any consumer good or service, To engage in unfair inscription of a religious connotation or any
trading practices in such a manner as to make false or obscene picture that may offend the religious
misleading publicity or advertisements relating to the use, feeling of any sect, class or group in Pakistan.
usefulness, or efficacy of any consumer good or service. The production and expiration dates must be printed in
The labeling requirement for food commodities has English, using either words and/or numbers.
been further described in Food Rules, 1970. The chapter 6
Standard U.S. bar-code labels alone are generally not
of the Food Rules, 1970 describes, in detail, the labeling
acceptable as they lack printed production and expiration
requirement as mentioned below:
dates, as required by law.
No packed food shall be sold or kept for sale Stickers, which contain the required printed dates of
unless and until a label is put on the wrapper of manufacture and expiration, should be affixed to the
container of that food. standard U.S. labels prior to shipment.
The description to be specified in a label shall be The coded "best before use date" is not considered to
in the Nepali or English language. The description be an acceptable expiration date. In the past, several
may also be specified in another language, in cargoes containing items without printed production
addition to these two languages, if one so wishes. and/or expiration dates were held by Customs until
A person who has a duty to act in accordance with stickers with production and expiration dates certified by
this Rule shall not overwrite, alter or deface or the Pakistani High Commission in the United States could
erase the label put in accordance with these Rules. be affixed to each individual item.

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Pakistan does not have any special or additional Discrepancies In Food Regulations And Their
requirements based on the country of origin for any food Consequences
product. In the event there is a worldwide alert for a
As seen above, the regulations that govern food and
product from a particular origin, Pakistan will notify the
nutrition labeling vary widely across countries in the
appropriate country and trade organizations of any
region. These variations may be attributed to the use of
changes in its import requirements. Authorities strictly
different International Guidelines when preparing national
enforce label requirements and do not grant exceptions.
regulations, and varying administrative systems which are
They are authorized to reject or to destroy any cargo with
based on many factors including, but not limited to,
improper labels. In case of food items containing artificial
historical, political, cultural and economic. Table 1
flavoring substances, the label may not declare the
summarizes the discrepancies that exist in nutrition
chemical names of the flavors, but in the case of natural
labeling legislation, profiling and formatting in Southeast
flavoring substances or nature-identical flavoring
Asia countries. Due to the differences in regulations
substances, the common name of flavors, including
between nations, food products are tested and re-tested as
whether natural or synthetic, shall be mentioned on the
they move from one country to another. The time and
label.
costs involved at least delay the availability of desirable
Pakistan does not require nutritional content to be
products and, in worst cases, products do not reach the
listed on product labels but generally accepts U.S. Food
market at all (Lelieveld and Keener, 2007).
and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations as guidelines.
Universally acceptable manufacturing and marketing
Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority
of products would simplify import and export procedures
regularly update its guidelines, based on Codex and FDA
and, therefore, reduce hurdles in cross-border trade of
revisions.
food. This requires that food legislation and regulations
Sri Lanka have to be harmonized regionally and internationally.
The Food (Labeling & Advertising) Regulations 2005 Knowing this, the food experts in the Southeast Asia
is applicable to all prepackaged food offered for sale or region have drafted and finalized the Guiding Principles
advertised for sale in Sri Lanka. The regulations specify, for Food Control Systems, which include the regional
in terms of content, language, letter size and format, the requirements for the labeling of pre-packaged foodstuffs
information that the label should carry. The label shall be (ASEAN, 2005).
affixed on the main panel of the package or container of Member countries are encouraged to follow these
the food indelibly printed or painted or affixed. Foods that Guidelines when preparing or modifying their national
contain genetically modified raw materials should carry food and nutrition regulations. The Guidelines are based
labels that state that fact. This regulation came into effect on Codex Alimentarius standards, codes and related texts
from 01.01.2007. Sri Lanka Customs, uses English as the which are recognized and endorsed in WTOs
key commercial language therefore facts presented in the Agreements on the application of Sanitary and
labels should best be in English. Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to
The Food Act comes under the purview of the Trade (TBT). In this context, when a country employs
Ministry of Health and it covers also labeling. Food labels Codex standards, its measures are presumed to be
should carry the common name of the contents in 2 of the consistent with the provisions of WTOs SPS and TBT
following 3 languages English, Sinhalese and Tamil. Agreements (FAO/WHO, 2006; WTO, 2007).
Permission may be obtained to affix labels to fulfill this
Harmonisation Of Food Labelling Regulations In The
need.
Region
The Consumer Affairs Authority has labeling
regulations that requires the following as a must: The Common Principles and Requirements for the
Production and Expiry dates, Batch numbers and the Labeling of Pre-packaged Foodstuffs, which experts have
Retail Price. established, provide the scope, definitions and rules for
On 19.01.2005 the Ministry updated regulations for the labeling of processed food. The clearer and simpler
implementation. The Food Labeling and Advertising the rules, the more likely they are to be properly
regulations 2005 requires conformity to the following implemented in all member countries. The generic
requirements in the labels. labeling requirements are adopted from the Codex
Country of Origin General Standard for the Labeling of Pre-packaged Foods
Date of Manufacturing, expiry and batch number. (Codex Stan 1-1985; Rev. 1-1991) (CAC, 2008). They
In the case of bulk supplies re-packed, the date of include the name of the product, a list of ingredients, the
such re-packing. net contents or net weight, the name and place of business
Declare nutrient claims only with prior approval. of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, date marking,
Claims on disease curing properties or cholesterol instructions for storage and use, and nutrition information
free, low sugar, etc. should conform to the as elaborated below.
parameters prescribed in the Food Act. The name of the food means a specific designation or
Additives and Coloring should be identified with description of the foodstuff to indicate its true nature to
INS numbers (International Numbering System). the consumer. If the food has undergone processing or its
physical condition has changed, this information should

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be added to the name of the food product to avoid for proper storage of the food must be clearly stated on
confusion. A coined, fanciful brand name or trade mark the label.
that is not false or misleading may be given next to the Instructions for use, including reconstitution. They are
name of the food in the principal display panel. required when it would be impossible to make appropriate
Nevertheless, these should not be used to replace the use of the food in the absence of such instructions.
name of the product. Nutrition information. This information is equally
A list of ingredients. Food ingredients and other important on food packaging as elaborated below.
substances can cause allergies or intolerances in some
Regional Requirements For Nutrition Labelling
consumers. For this reason, all ingredients, including
those obtained through genetic modification and ionizing The Regional Requirements for nutrition labeling are
radiation, must be listed on the label. The ingredients formulated based on the Codex Guidelines for Nutrition
must also be identified by their common or usual names Labeling (CAC/GL 2-1985), and the Codex Guidelines on
to help consumers identify the ones that they are allergic Use of Nutrition and Health Claims (CAC/GL 23-1997)
to or want to avoid for other reasons. The ingredient that (CAC, 2009a; CAC; 2009b).
is present in the largest amount, by weight, must be listed Under the Regional Guidelines, nutrition labeling is
first. Other ingredients must follow in descending order voluntary, although it becomes compulsory when a
according to weight as recorded at the time of their use in nutrition or health claim is made in the labeling,
the manufacture of the food. In general, the following presentation or advertising of a foodstuff or when
ingredients, known to cause allergies in some people, vitamins or minerals are voluntarily added to food. In
should always be declared: cereals containing gluten (e.g. general, the regional requirements for nutrition labeling
wheat, rye, barley, oat, spelt or their hybridized strain), are as follows:
crustaceans, eggs and egg products, fish and fish The energy value and the amounts of protein, fat
products, peanuts and soybeans, milk and milk products and carbohydrates must be declared when nutrition
(lactose included), tree nuts and nut products, and or health claims are made on food packaging.
Sulphites (SO2) in concentrations of 10 mg/kg or more. Information about energy and nutrients must be
Net contents and drained weight. The net quantity of presented clearly, legibly and indelibly.
food should be expressed in metric units of mass, namely Energy values must be expressed in kJ and kcal,
weight for solid foods, volume for liquid foods and and the amounts of protein, carbohydrate and fat in
weight or volume for semi-solid or viscous foods. For grams, while the amounts of vitamins and minerals
solid foods sold in liquid media, the drained net weight should be expressed in metric units and/or as a
must be declared. percentage of the Codex Nutritional Reference
Name and address of the manufacturer. The name and Values.
address of the manufacturer, or packer or distributor or Energy values and the amounts of all the nutrients
owner of rights of manufacture or brand owner, should be should be given per 100 g or per 100 ml or per
given in the case of food of local origin. For imported package, if the package contains only a single
food, the name and address of local importer and/or portion, or per serving as quantified on the label or
distributor and the country of origin are required. When a per portion provided that the number of portions
food undergoes processing in the second country, which contained in the package is stated.
changes its nature, the country in which the processing is Food intended for export should be labeled in
performed shall be considered to be the country of origin English and/or in a national language for the
for the purposes of labeling. country to which the food is marketed aside from
Date marking. The manufacturing date and the date of voluntary nutrition labeling, the Regional
minimum durability of the food (best before or use-by Guidelines allow nutrient content, nutrient
date) must be clearly marked on the label. Best before comparative and nutrient function claims to be
means the date which signifies the end of the period under made on food packaging in member countries,
any stated storage conditions during which the product provided they meet the minimum criteria set by the
will remain fully marketable and will retain any specific Codex Alimentarius. In addition, claims indicating
qualities for which claims have been made. Beyond the food grading or quality, such as organic or
Best-before date, the food may still be perfectly religious and ritual preparation of food (halal or
satisfactory. Conversely, Use-by Date, or Recommended kosher), may be used on the label.
Last Consumption Date or expiration date, connotes the In this regard, a symbol or logo for organic, halal or
date which signifies the end of the estimated period under kosher, recognized by food safety and quality authorities,
any stated storage conditions, after which the product should be included on the label. The Regional Guidelines
probably will not have the quality attributes normally put emphasis on meaningful claims. To give an example,
expected by the consumer. After this date, the food should any comparative claim must clearly indicate the foods
not be regarded as marketable. Depending on how long being compared. In addition, such a claim should not
the food can keep, the Best before or Use-by date can be imply that a product is superior to any other existing
expressed by the day and the month, the month and year, product of the same kind without giving scientific
or the year alone. substantiation for the claim.
Storage instructions. Any special conditions necessary Where possible, the food manufacturers are required
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to state the importance of a diversified and balanced diet, redesigning food packaging, strengthening administrative
and never imply that ordinary foods are nutritionally infrastructures and human resources, ensuring effective
inadequate. Misleading claims are prohibited; for collaboration and information sharing among
example, claims about the absence of beef or pork or lard stakeholders, and, ultimately, efficient monitoring,
or their derivatives, or added alcohol when the food does surveillance and enforcement of the adopted standards
not contain such ingredients or when such ingredients are (Othman, 2007). Keep in mind that the extent of the
not permitted. Moreover, reduction of disease risk claims compliance costs to be borne by the food industry
and medicinal and/or therapeutic claims, which imply that depends on the timeframe given to make the necessary
a food can prevent, treat or cure a human disease, are adjustments.
prohibited. Currently, four countries permit reduction of The impact of such costs is smaller over the medium
disease risk claims in the region, namely Indonesia, term than if the manufacturers had to comply immediately
Singapore, the Philippines and Laos (Tee, 2009). (CIE, 2002).This is because there is a natural evolution in
Conversely, all countries allow nutrient content, nutrient food product lines and changes in packaging as
comparative and nutrient function claims to be made on manufacturers develop new products to target trends in
the food label. the market. Inevitably, some (perhaps nearly all) of these
costs are ultimately passed forward to consumers (CIE,
Benefits and Challenges of Harmonising Food
2002). For this reason, consumer participation in issues of
Standards
food standards is critical. Aside from higher food prices
Food standards harmonization is an effective way of as a result of costs incurred in harmonizing food
promoting public health and international food trade. regulations, globalization of the food trade may result in
Through harmonization, FAO, WHO and WTO envisage food safety problems being globalized. In other words, as
fewer barriers to trade and freer movement of food food may be a vehicle for food-borne pathogens,
products among countries (FAO/WHO, 2006; WTO, globalization of food trade may be a mechanism for the
2007). In other words, harmonization of standards enables spread of food-borne illnesses to consumers in far-flung
food companies to adhere to one set of international markets. Indeed, new hazards are continually being
regulations instead of adjusting to a diverse array of identified and many outbreaks have been traced to
national standards for importing countries (Avery, 1995). imported foods, including in countries with sophisticated
Subsequently, the food companies gain access to new food control systems. For example, 80-90% of cases of
markets and opportunities for trade, while governments Salmonellosis, acute diarrhoea as a result of food
benefit from the economic gains which flow to the food contamination, have been shown to be imported cases
industry from increased trade. (Motarjemi et al., 2001).
Moreover, global harmonization of food legislation Similarly, the import of beef products was implicated
provides many benefits to consumers. For example, it in the outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in
adds to the variety of food available in many parts of the Europe in 1999 (Motarjemi et al., 2001). Table 1
world; thus contributing to the pleasure of eating and food summarizes the benefits and challenges of global
security. It also makes nutrition information on product harmonization of food labeling legislation to all the
packaging uniform which allows easy comparison and stakeholders, namely the governments, food firms and
choice of products. In this way, harmonization of food consumers. Lessons learned in other regions, such as
legislation contributes toward better diets and a reduction European Union and North America, show that the
in diet-related diseases, such as coronary heart disease, harmonization process is complex and sporadic. Countries
diabetes, stroke and cancer. Generally, the benefits of are confronted with differing levels of development,
reduced morbidity are two-fold. First, it reduces medical capacities and determination which hamper the progress
costs and deaths, which free up household expenditures, of harmonization. Moreover, harmonization of standards,
and help families redirect resources to other problem such as labeling of pre-packaged food, applies to a
areas. plethora of products and is meant for a heterogeneous
Second, it boosts the labor supply and productivity, population of consumers (e.g. over 580 million people in
and subsequently contributes to family incomes and Southeast Asia region). Therefore, those reviewing food
economic growth (CIE, 2002; Lindenmayer, 1999). As an and nutrition regulations must do so in the light of a
example, the United States has recorded a significant future scenario driven by innovations in the food industry
reduction in cardiovascular diseases since 1970s as a and the changing purchasing habits of the modern
result of better diets (low fat and salt intake) and healthier consumer (Motarjemi et al., 2001). For example, many
lifestyles owing to reading of product information by consumers now buy their food via the internet. These
consumers. Consequently, for every dollar of income consumers have the same need for clear, essential
saved through prevention of death from these diseases information as those who shop in their local supermarket.
there is an economy-wide gain of $1.92 (CIE, 2002). As such, the aim of internationalizing food standards
In reality, however, embracing harmonization of food should primarily be to create legislation which is flexible
labeling regulations brings along new challenges to many enough to be easily adapted as consumer trends evolve,
countries and regions of the world. These include and wide-reaching in its approach to ensure that there is
legislation which needs updating, establishment of consistency in the approach to providing information on
sufficient and efficient accredited laboratories, food (Tuner, 1995).

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Table 1 Benefits and challenges of global harmonization of food regulations


Stakeholder Benefits Challenges
Nutrition information which is uniform and easy Cost of harmonizing regulations in terms
to use of higher food prices
Increased variety of safe and nutritious food An increased risk of globalizing food
products safety problems such as food-borne
Better food purchasing habits and an illnesses
Consumers
improvement in family diets
A reduction in chronic disease, medical costs and
deaths
Higher labor supply and an increase in family
income
Consistent nutritional profiling criteria and Costs associated with familiarization
presentation with harmonized regulations
Access to new markets and opportunities for trade Compliance and implementation cost
Food companies
Higher product quality as a result of increased Monitoring and administrative costs
competition
Simplification of import and export procedures
and therefore, a reduction in trade costs
An increase in revenue and profits
Growth in food trade and good economic Expenditure in establishing global
performance labeling standards Increased costs of
enforcement, monitoring and
Government surveillance of compliance with adopted
standards
Costs associated with consumer
education

Conclusion
Food and nutrition labeling regulations are varied in countries to developing countries, is crucial in the
SAARC countries. The existing variations are of globalization of food standards and trade. Most
preeminent concern in cross-border food trade and access. importantly, such assistance needs to be carefully
For this reason, experts in the region shall draft and designed and coordinated.
finalize guidelines for food safety, which include the
References
common guidelines for the labeling of food stuffs. These
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