New food labelling requirements were introduced by the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) (Amendment) Regulation 2004 (enacted on 9 July 2004) (the "Regulation") in Hong Kong. The industry was given a three-year grace period to begin complying with the Regulation. The grace period expires on 9 July 2007 and, with effect from 10 July 2007, any person who advertises for sale, sells or manufactures for sale any food which is not labelled in accordance with the Regulation commits an offence and is liable to a fine up to HK$50,000 and imprisonment up to 6 months.
The Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) Regulation was amended by the Food and Drugs (Composition and Labelling) (Amendment) Regulation in 2004. The Regulation mainly deals with three aspects of food labelling, namely (i) labelling of allergens, (ii) labelling of food additives and (iii) date format on food label. The Regulation aims to assist susceptible individuals to avoid food containing allergens and help consumers make informed choice.
Labelling Of Allergens
If prepackaged food consists of or contains certain substances which are known to cause food allergic reactions, the Regulation requires the name of these substances to be specified in the list of ingredients on the food label. These substances are:
(i) cereals containing gluten (namely wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, their hybridized strains and their products);
(ii) crustacean and crustacean products;
(iii) eggs and egg products;
(iv) fish and fish products;
(v) peanuts, soyabeans and their products;
(vi) milk and milk products (including lactose); and
(vii) tree nuts and nut products.
Further, if a food consists of or contains sulphite in a concentration of 10 parts per million or more, the functional class of the sulphite and its name shall be specified in the list of ingredients.
Labelling Of Food Additives
Before the Regulation was enacted, it was only necessary to list an additive constituting one of the ingredients of a food by its specific name or by the appropriate category, or by both name and category. It was not mandatory to include the specific names of the additives on the food label. However, under the Regulation, traders must specify both the additive's functional class and its specific name, or its identification number under the International Numbering System for Food Additives (the "INS"), or its identification number under the INS with the prefix "E" or "e" in order to denote the additives used.
The Regulation does not however require traders to disclose the amount of food additives added to the prepackaged food. There is also no requirement that the name of the additives should be listed in both English and Chinese.
Date Format On Food Label
The Regulation provides that where the "best before" date or the "use by" date is shown in Arabic numerals, the day, month and year can appear in any order as long as the day is indicated by the words "DD", "dd", "D" or "d" in English lettering and "?" in Chinese character; the month is indicated by the words "MM", "mm", "M" or "m" in English lettering and "?" in Chinese characters and the year is indicated by the words "YY", "yy", "Y" or "y" in English lettering and "?" in Chinese character.
The Regulation also makes some modifications to the items exempted from prepackaged food labelling requirements, and certain prepackaged food which was previously exempted must now comply with the prepackaged food labelling requirements.
For further information, please contact:
Name: Rosita Y. M. Li
Phone: +852 2843 4287
Fax: +852 2103 5174