Knesset to Mull Marking Ingredients on Front of Food Packages

New regulations would require sugars, fats, salt, and calories to be listed on front of food products.

Dan Even
Dan Even
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Dan Even
Dan Even

New regulations requiring that ingredients be clearly marked on the front of food packaging marketed in Israel, in addition to those that currently appear on the side of the packages, will go before the Knesset on Tuesday for possible approval.

Under the new regulations, which would be incrementally introduced within three years from January 2014, the following ingredients would appear on the front of every food package: sugars, fats, salt (sodium ) and calories. They would be printed in a standard graphic design inside a box covering at least one fifth of the front of the package, in letters at least one third the size of the product's name on the same package.

The new instructions, formulated by the Health Ministry and approved by the Knesset's Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, cover all types of foodstuffs sold in Israel, except food additives, baby foods (for which separate instructions exist regarding ingredients appearing on the sides of packages ) and medicinal foodstuffs. Also under the new regulations, the amount of calories will be clearly marked on the packaging of alcoholic drinks.

The decision to enforce the clear marking of ingredients on food packaging is one of several legislation initiatives in the field of food taken by the Health Ministry under a national program to promote active and healthy lifestyles that the government approved in December 2011. Other regulations currently being formulated include adding the number of calories per portion to restaurant and cafe menus.

A Health Ministry source described the new regulations as "empowering the importance of information by transferring it to the front of packages."

In recent years various Western countries have changed their regulations regarding the marking of food ingredients, with an eye to promoting consumption of healthy foods. In some countries food packages must include symbols relating to essential ingredients, while in other countries this includes the percentage of the recommended daily intake of each ingredient (known as GDA ).

However, according to the head of public health at the Health Ministry, Prof. Itamar Grotto, "The recommended daily intake of calories varies between men and women and between adults and children, which is why this marking system was chosen. Our aim is to make this information more accessible, and allow more informed decisions regarding healthy foods."

The change in the nutritional marking of food packages, as per the draft of the new regulations, is planned to be carried out alongside a public campaign explaining the importance of wise consumption of food.

According to a survey of health and nutrition practices carried out by the Health Ministry a decade ago, most of the adult population of Israel is punctilious when it comes to checking food contents: 42.9 percent said they check the ingredients (52.6 percent of women and 32.2 percent of men ); 33.7 percent say they check for food colorings; 37.2 percent for preservatives; 53.7 percent check the nutrition declarations of packages; and 47 percent say they look at the nutrition table on food packages.

Shoppers at a Rami Levy supermarket.Credit: Shiran Granot

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