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How to make use of nutrition labels to choose healthier food products

The nutrition labelling scheme came into force on 1st July, 2010 in Hong Kong. Unless otherwise exempted, all prepackaged food must be affixed with a nutrition label, which lists the amount of energy and 7 types of specified nutrients. These include protein, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, carbohydrates, sugars and sodium.

Reading nutrition labels enables you to know the nutrition facts of the food and lets you work out your intake of energy and nutrients. You may also compare the nutrition facts of different food products, hence make a healthier choice to suit your personal dietary needs, such as keeping a healthy body weight, controlling cholesterol and blood pressure etc.

The reference amounts found in a nutrition label can be expressed as 'every 100g', 'every 100 ml', 'each serving' or 'every pack'.

Energy: The energy value of food is shown in kcal or kJ, where 1 kcal = 4.184kJ. Energy value shows the amount of energy that is obtained after consuming the reference amount of the food.

Total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, sugars: The intake of these nutrients should be put under control in order to for the heart to stay healthy and maintain an optimal body weight.

Sodium: There is a risk of hypertension with too much intake of sodium (or salt).

Protein and carbohydrates: The intake of a suitable amount of protein and carbohydrates is the key to maintaining a balanced diet.

Other nutrients: Apart from the abovementioned 7 kinds of nutrients, you may also find information on other kinds of nutrients on the nutrition label. We should ensure the sufficient intake of certain nutrients, such as dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins; meanwhile, avoid consuming excessive amounts of certain nutrients such as cholesterol.

Please refer to the following websites for information concerning nutrition labels:
Nutrition Information on Food Labels (Centre for Food Safety)
Nutrition Labelling page (Centre for Food Safety)