A systematic review of the prevalence of nutrition labels and completeness of nutrient declarations on pre-packaged foods in China

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Abstract

Background

The Chinese government launched a voluntary nutrition labelling code in 2007 and made it mandatory since 1 January 2013. This article aims to quantify the prevalence of nutrition labels and the completeness of nutrient declarations on pre-packaged foods in China and to explore the impact of the 2007 code.

Methods

A systematic search of the published and grey literature was done, and a random-effects meta-analysis was used to obtain summary estimates.

Results

There were 15 surveys identified from 13 reports. For 44% (95% confidence interval: 37–51%) of the 22 636 food items, the product label provided information on one or more nutrients. There was significant heterogeneity between the surveys (I2 = 99%, P < 0.001) raising some uncertainty about the reliability of the estimate. The heterogeneity was in part explained by differences in labelling between food categories (P < 0.001) but not by changes in the prevalence of nutrition labels over time (P = 0.36).

Conclusions

Most pre-packaged foods in this survey had a nutrition label non-compliant with current Chinese nutrition labelling standards. The voluntary code launched in 2007 had limited impact on nutrition labelling. There is significant scope for the recently introduced mandatory labelling requirements to improve nutrition labelling in China.

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