The Ministry of Public Health in Thailand, on 31 August, launched the front-of-pack Healthier Choice logo labelling scheme, which helps consumers to identify healthier food options. Dr Tipvon Parinyasiri, Director, The Bureau of Food, Food and Drug Administration Thailand, and Professor Visith Chavasit from the Institute of Nutrition, Mahidol University, share about the significance and objectives of this programme.
Food Industry Asia (FIA): Why is the launch of this labelling scheme significant?
PVC: The Healthier Choice symbol is a kind of nutrition labelling that we think is more efficient than the traditional one. The formal launching ceremony for the logo took place today. We think that all the companies that joined the programme can come together and show that their products are already available in the market, as well as inform the consumers that now, we have these kinds of products in the market.
DTP: It gives the choice to the consumer – the consumers can make their own decisions about nutrition based on their health.
FIA: What does FDA Thailand hope to achieve with this scheme?
DTP You know, this is a choice – there are 3 key components of this scheme. The first is how the manufacturer can reformulate a product, to make it healthier. The second is that the logo serves as a tool for consumers to make decisions based on the labelling information. And the third, education.
Since we know that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have become an issue of health impact, this scheme will enable the government to align with food manufacturers, in order to reformulate food products, especially packaged foods. The simplified nutrition label will serve as marketing for the manufacturers, to promote healthier choices to consumers. The Healthier Choice logo depicts a nutrient profile that reduces the amount of salt, sugar and calorie intake by 25%. So we hope that it will have a positive impact on consumer health.
FIA: How can nutrition labelling lead to healthier eating habits?
PVC: We expect to educate the consumer about the nutrition profile, the food itself. We want them to have a choice of products in the market. Yes, it's a guide for consumers, the way this label shows how a product has reduced sodium, sugar, saturated fat or total energy. However, we don't think that it can totally change eating habits. We just use it as an educational tool for the consumers – if they see this kind of logo, they will question: Why does this product have this logo? Then they will get the answer that the product contains lower levels of sugar, or sodium, or fat. And why is there a need for lower levels of sodium or sugar or fat? Because it's not good for you. Because it could lead to a risk of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). By looking at the food products, consumers can compare between the one that has and the one that doesn’t, and use the logoas the educational tool for them to learn how to eat more healthily.
FIA: What can the food industry do, across the supply chain, to contribute to these efforts?
PVC: We want to stimulate the industry to recognise their nutrient profiles of their products – to encourage them to improve, or do research and development for new products and more; to provide products with better nutrient profiles into the market.
DTP Motivate small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through engagement of the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as the SME foundation, as well as academics at the local level, which will help SMEs develop and reformulate new products. Furthermore, help to promote marketing at the local level through retailers. Today, we have top supermarket brands involved in this scheme. Therefore, this scheme not only involves academia, but government officers and manufacturers at all levels as well. I think Thailand is ready to move forward to counteract NCDs; this will have an impact on Thai consumer health.
FIA: What more needs to be done?
PVC: We think that this logo should be more universal, not just used within Thailand. We hope that other ASEAN countries will join us, meeting the need to issue the criteria and recognise the logo among countries. As such, this would promote and harmonise internal trading among ASEAN countries.
Published on 27 Sep 2016