Ultimatum on Food Labeling

Ultimatum on Food Labeling
Ultimatum on Food Labeling

The director of the Office of the Commissioner of Food Safety at the ministry of health said an ultimatum has been issued to food manufactures to label their products.  Dr. Zahra Abdollahi told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that for food policies to take full effect, “a one year process might be needed.”

Food labeling is important as consumers are informed of the risk factors of poor nutrition, she said. Awareness about the level of unhealthy ingredients such as fat, sugar and sodium in food products is highly effective in preventing non-infectious diseases.

The food labeling process has already commenced and the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) along with the food safety office and the National Standards Organization are overseeing the process. “The level of sugar in products is especially important for diabetic patients to know,’’ she noted.    

She emphasized the role of educational campaigns in enhancing the overall health of citizens. ‘’People should feel compelled to read all the food labels and this cannot be done without raising their dietary awareness,’’ she said while reiterating that diabetic patients should be careful to control their sugar level intakes and especially avoid foods containing sugar additives.

The process of food labeling must be monitored to ensure that all the necessary nutrition facts are given on the label so that people can make healthier food choices. ‘’This is why we have given the companies a longer time to promote their products and labels,’’ she added.

 Eating Habits    

Abdollahi focused on non-infectious diseases like diabetes and said since eating habits and healthy nutrition is the key to preventing diabetes, there must be programs to enhance dietary awareness. Annual educational programs and also special programs for health workers and school officials are being held, she said.

‘’If we want to prevent diabetes, we need to start early and instill healthy eating habits in children from elementary school,’’ she maintained. Dietary guidelines have been devised for people to make healthy food choices. The guidelines include 10 key nutrition messages. Since there is a surge in non-infectious diseases in the country like diabetes, high triglycerides, hypertension, etc., the primary message to the people is that they should consume more fruits and vegetables and cut their consumption of confectionary and sweet drinks as well foods high in sodium and fat.

‘’Right now, much of soda and other drinks and even milk in the market contain high amounts of sugar,’’ the official pointed out, adding that that for the prevention of diabetes, the amount of sugar in soft drinks must be reduced; the ongoing cooperation with food industries is aimed to achieve the same goal.

‘’We have been instructing food manufacturers since three years to reconsider sugar level standards in their products so low-sugar foods are available in the market,’’ Abdollahi said.

 Growing Problem

According to UN figures, diabetes affects more than 350 million people in the world. Many will suffer from its debilitating complications and die prematurely. Cardiovascular diseases kill half of all people with diabetes, which is among the leading causes of kidney failure.

National figures also show 5 million Iranians suffer from diabetes, some of whom don’t even know about their disease. The minister of health recently said the disease is taking a heavy toll on the country.

In his message on World Diabetes Day, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said although the disease is often misunderstood as an illness associated with affluent lifestyles, diabetes is a growing problem in developing countries. ‘’Healthy eating and regular exercise can prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and are important in managing all types of diabetes,’’ he said.