Nutritional Aspects of Food Labeling in Saudi Arabia

Article excerpt

Few studies have been conducted on food labeling in Saudi Arabia. The objective of this study was to conduct a baseline survey to provide data on nutritional aspects of food labeling in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, consumers' knowledge, attitudes and practices towards food labeling were assessed.

One hundred and fifty national food products (constituting 10% of the total products manufactured) were randomly selected. These products were checked for the presence of certain standards of nutritional information on the label. Additionally, 400 consumers were randomly selected at the grocery stores, of whom half were women. Data was collected via interviews using a questionnaire. Statistical analysis was performed using percentages and chi-square test.

Results indicated that all the products had nutrition labels in compliance with the Saudi standards for labels of prepackaged foods. However, labels were generally lacking many of the nutrition information required by other international standards. Consumer's survey indicated ignorance of the importance of information on the label such as nutrition content, serving size, special characteristics, health claims special usage and health warning. Their importances were filed only by 18, 1, 15, 9, 5 and zero percent successively. This low awareness may result in low ability to make the right and informed decision when buying prepackaged foods.

The study recommends provision of nutrition education on nutritional aspects of food labeling among consumers and encouraging food product manufacturers to provide more nutrition information on food labels. It also calls for more in depth research in regard to food labeling.

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Introduction

Food labeling is the primary means of communication between the producer and seller of food on one hand, and the purchaser and consumer on the other hand. Due to the increased awareness about the interrelationships between nutrition and health and greater dependency on manufactured foods, professionals and consumers have shown more interest in food labeling information. Food labeling includes any written, printed or graphic matter that is present on the label, accompanies food or is displayed near the food including that for the purpose of promoting its sale or disposal (Codex Alimantarius Commission, 2000). The information required to appear on the label of the prepackaged food should be clear, prominent and readily legible by the consumer under normal conditions of purchase and use (Saudi Arabian Standards for Prepackaged Foods, 1995). The label should provide the consumer with sufficient information about the contents of the container to enable him/her to make the right and informed food purchasing decisions that will meet their health and physiological needs. Consumers can find such information under: nutrition facts, nutrition information or content (ingredient label).

Since the early seventies food labeling information was clearly seen on most manufactured foods in the developed world. Information about package content was obligatory for most foods with known standard content (National Curriculum Council, 1990).

Benefits of Food Labeling are:

--Provides consumers with nutrition information on food available in grocery stores.

--Provides consumers with extensive information on important nutrients in a standardized, easy to read format needed to make in an informed manner food purchasing decisions.

--Provides information on quantities of foods for special health considerations such as saturated fats, cholesterol and fiber.

--Provision of information on the percentage of recommended dietary allowances (RDA) provided by package content would enable consumers to use that food among their daily food plan.

--Unification of the use of expressions such as high, low, free will ensure the same meaning for all food products. …