Food labels to be regulated

FOOD label regulations that were made law on March 1, 2010 have finally come into effect, two years later.
The food industry was initially given one year to comply, but this was extended by another year after they asked for more time to change their packaging.
This initiative by the Department of Health is an effort to force food producers to inform consumers as to what exactly they are buying, so that they are not misled by dishonest importers and sellers, according to the department’s spokesman Fidel Hadebe.
The Consumer Fair reports that from March 1, these new regulations details must be on food labels – it does not matter if the food was made here or imported. The labels must say what the main ingredients are, and what nutrition there is in the food.
Labels must now:
 Describe the ingredients in the food. This information must be printed clearly next to the name of the product.
 State the country of origin.
 Include a nutritional table if their product is described with words like “high fibre”, “sugar-free” or “low fat”.
 Show what percentage of each ingredient is in the food.
 The heaviest ingredient should be listed first. For example, if a wholenut chocolate bar has whole nuts mentioned as the last item under ingredients, you will know that it contains hardly any whole nuts.
 The “use by” date must appear on perishable pre-packaged food items which may not be sold after the expiry date.
 The “best before” date must appear on non-perishable items but these may still be sold after the expiry date.
 Common allergens such as gluten, milk, eggs, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish or crustaceans, or significant cereals such as wheat, rye, barley and oats must be indicated clearly on food labels.
 Additives such as tartrazine, MSG, sulphur dioxide and related compounds also have to be declared on labels. The consumer must now be told exactly how much of the advertised ingredient is in the product. For instance, if a tub has a label that says “olive oil spread” then we must be told how much olive oil is actually there.
Smoothies may no longer be advertised as 95% fat free but the label must show that the product contains 5% fat. Manufacturers may no longer make nutritional claims about food unless it has been analysed in an accredited laboratory, and the nutrient content is greater than a specified amount per serving. In the case of raw processed meat products, such as quick frozen chicken portions, which have brine added, the percentage of chicken and of the brine-based mixture should be declared on the main panel of the packaging.

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