Solon proposes mandatory labeling of pre-packed foods

FILIPINOS should know the nutritional value of the groceries that they buy in the market to ensure a healthy lifestyle, Las Piñas Rep. Camille Villar said as she proposed the mandatory labeling of all pre-packed food products under House Bill No. 9344. 

Villar’s proposed “Philippine Nutrition Labeling Act of 2023” requires nutrition labeling or requirement for food commodities to ensure food safety and control. 

The lawmaker noted that many packaged food products sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and micro and small stores lack labels to properly inform consumers of their nutritional content. 

“This measure is being pushed to promote a healthy lifestyle and support public health initiatives among Filipinos,” she said. 

She noted that “although there are rules and regulations being implemented by health and nutrition agencies of the government as regards (to) food labeling to ensure food safety and control, many pre-packed food being sold for retail still lack nutritional value labels.” 

“In the Philippines, as well as in other countries in the Southeast Asian region, there is no mandatory nutrition labeling or requirement for food, but relies solely on the voluntary inclusion by manufacturers, packagers or distributors (that) indicate the nutritional value on the labels of food products being sold in the market to the public,” Villar said. 

She added that “accurate food labeling also promotes transparency as it provides consumers with vital nutritional information of food that they buy. This practice would also ensure their safety and health when it comes to food consumption, as well as possible ingredients which may be potentially toxic to the consumer and safe handling practices for food storage.” 

She also said that “proper food labeling is all the more important to be immediately implemented in order to address undernutrition as it is, and has always been, a serious problem in the Philippines.” 

According to a World Bank study in 2021, the Philippines was ranked fifth among countries in the East Asia and Pacific region with the highest prevalence of stunting and was among the 10 countries in the world with the highest number of stunted children. 

Under HB 9344, all pre-packed food products would be required to include a label containing the following information: number of servings or other units of measure per container, the total number of calories derived from any source and derived from the total fat. 

It shall also include the amount of the following nutrients in each serving size or other unit of measurement of food: total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber, and total protein. 

No packaged consumer commodity shall be distributed or caused to be distributed in commerce unless it conforms with the regulations established by the Bureau of Food and Drugs