Colour coding system for all solid food from June | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Colour coding system for all solid food from June

There is no regulatory framework to monitor the process of street vending of food in Sri Lanka and the need to have a mechanism to ensure that hygienic and safe food is sold by street vendors is essential, Deputy Director General EOH/Food Safety, Ministry of Health, Dr. L.T. Gamlath said.

“The government needs to introduce laws and regulations with regard to street vendor food as this has become part and parcel of life today. The lack of a regulatory mechanism has resulted in consumption of low quality food and the cleanliness of the food handlers is also a big issue, as both the transportation and distribution is done by the same person.

“This issue needs immediate government attention,” he said at a seminar on ‘Food safety hot topic in Sri Lanka - What’s done and What’s to be done’ organised by the Institute of Food Science and Technology Sri Lanka held in Colombo last week. The food temperature and food handling hygiene are important when it comes to street food. There should be more focus on ensuring that ‘meals on wheels’ have proper standards.

The government will introduce a colour coding system for all solid food items which will come into effect from June 1.

The present regulations which the coding covers is sugar content of liquids (beverages), which came into effect from August 2016 and has shown good results in terms of creating awareness among the public, he said.

Measures have been taken to revise the existing regulations to include milk based beverages into the classification and to reduce the ‘cut out level’ from 11 to 8 with the introduction of a new beverage regulation.

The obesity level of Sri Lankan people is on the rise and this has created many issues including increased prevalence in non communicable diseases. Over 50 percent of the females are subjected to obesity, while there is one-third increase in the incidents of cancer and diabetes.

In this backdrop, colour coding systems will play a key role in educating the public regarding their food intake habits, Head Nutrition Division Medical Research Institute Colombo Dr. Renuka Jayatissa said.

The Front Of Pack (FOP) labelling is recommended as a mechanism to control non communicable diseases and provide guiding principals. As warning label systems are not used in Sri Lanka, FOP has a policy objective of communicating complex information to the consumers, to change consumer behaviour, she said.

“The regulations will encourage the industrialists to reformulate their products to match the needs of the country. It also provides a guide to more specific nutrition systems while encouraging the consumers to identify healthy food choices and help encourage the consumer driven mandate for greater transparency,” she said.

When the regulations are in place, they are expected to scale up the products for better consumer awareness.

According to research with regard to awareness of the coding system, 37 percent where aware of the sugar content while 89 percent had knowledge of the coding system and this was a positive trend after two years of implementation, she said.

Evidence of the real life impact of mandatory FOP nutrition labeling systems on consumer behaviour and industry reformulation is limited. It is important to evaluate the ability of FOP nutrition labeling schemes to effectively communicate information to different target groups.

The impact of voluntary FOP nutrition labelling on industry reformulation may have greater potential to affect all consumers, independent of socio-demographic characteristics. Most of the mandatory FOP nutrition labeling schemes have been implemented only in the past five years. More scientific evidence will soon become available to accelerate this important policy option on a global scale.