Size matters in labeling

The Consumer Council has called on traders to provide clear food label information to allow consumers to make informed choices as its recent survey on prepackaged food revealed various legibility issues on most labeling.

Almost 90 percent of products were found to have tiny font sizes that did not comply with rules. Of 55 products, only seven had font sizes that complied with the height listed in the Centre for Food Safety's trade guidelines.

Of the remaining 48, one instant noodle sample's smallest English and Chinese font heights were only 0.3 and 0.5 millimeters.

In addition, 60 percent of the products belonged to the larger package category, but their labels and fonts were small.

For example, SI Parsley & Garlic Baguette Chips' packaging has a total surface area of more than 2,000 square centimeters, but the label is only 22 sq cm. The width of the nutrition label is less than a one-cent coin and the smallest letter only 0.8 mm, which is smaller than the recommended 1.2 mm.

Except for Greatwall's braised pork preserved vegetable, all the other 54 products were deemed to be in need of improvement by 15 people aged 20 to 61 or above that the council invited to sit on a panel and split into five groups by age.

The most dissatisfactory detail needing improvement was the font size, followed by print quality, color contrast, font spacing, and reflection on the packaging surface.

The food trade is urged to design readable labels with larger font sizes and clear printing, "especially for the elderly with poor eyesight and those who are particularly concerned about health information," said Kyrus Siu.