EcoWaste Coalition Calls for Strict Enforcement of Food Labeling Requirements

A toxics watchdog monitoring harmful chemicals
in products called for the stringent enforcement of food labeling requirements,
especially for imported prepackaged food products.

The group called for compliant food labeling as it welcomed the findings by the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the safety of Korean noodles from
benzopyrene, a cancer-causing substance, in product batches under scrutiny.

The FDA yesterday lifted the “temporary ban” on six types of Korean
instant noodles after laboratory analysis showed the benzopyrene content to be
below the 10 parts per billion (ppb) limit used for the recall advisory.

“One of our discoveries at the height of the hullabaloo surrounding the recall
of some Korean instant noodles due to the benzopyrene scare was the problem
with imported food items with no English or Filipino product information,” said
Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The recalled items we obtained from Korean specialty shops were without any
English or Filipino translation, depriving the consumers of their right to
information and making it difficult for food safety advocates to conduct market
monitoring,”she said.

“Labels that are complete, truthful and understandable can guide consumers in
making the right choices to safeguard them from abuse, fraud and health risk,”
she pointed.

To gauge the “extent” of the labeling problem with imported prepackaged food
products, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol went shopping for imported
instant noodles on November 10-11, 2012.

The group bought 13 different types of imported instant noodles priced between
P20 to P47 from stores selling Chinese, Japanese, Korean and other imported
food products in Binondo, Manila City; Cartimar, Pasay City; and Cubao, Quezon

Out of the 13 samples, only 4 have basic labeling information written in
English, such as a Nissin Chicken Flavor Ramen from Hong Kong, an Indomie Mi
Goreng Satay Flavor Instant Noodle from Indonesia, an Ottogi Kimchi Ramen from
South Korea and a Wei-Wei Vegetarian Flavor Instant Noodle from Taiwan.

The Myojo, Sanyo and Toyo Suisan Japanese instant noodles – all obtained from
Cartimar – have no product information in English.

The Nongshim, Ottogi (2 types) and Paldo Korean noodles bought from Cartimar
and Cubao, as well as the two Chinese noodles from Binondo, have no English
translation on their labels.

“If there is one thing we can learn from the Korean noodle controversy it is
the need to enforce the labeling rules and regulations as instructed by
law,”Lucero added.

Lucero was referring to Administrative Order No. 88-B, Series of 1984 on the
“Rules and Regulations Governing the Labeling of Prepackaged Food Products
Distributed in the Philippines” issued by the Department of Health (then known
as the Ministry of Health) as recommended by the Bureau of Food and Drugs (the
precursor of the current FDA).

The said AO requires that “the language used for all information on the label
shall be either English or Filipino or any major dialect or a combination

“In the case of imported food products, labels where in the information are
declared in a foreign language must also carry the corresponding English
translation, otherwise such products shall not be permitted for local
distribution,” the AO said.

According to the AO, all prepackaged food products shall bear the following
mandatory information on the label: 1) name of the food, 2) complete list of ingredients,
3) declaration of food additives, 4) net contents and drained weight, 5) name
and address of manufacturer, packer and distributor.

“Any violation of the provision of this rules and regulation shall render the
article misbranded and the responsible person shall be subject to the penal
provision of section 12 (a) of R.A. 3720 (Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act),” the
A.O. stated.

“We further suggest the provision of mandatory information that will tell
consumers if genetically modified materials, as well as nano materials, were
used in the manufacture of food products. We’ve got to know what it is in the
foods on our plates,” Lucero added.