Food Labelling Requirements

I am used to different nutritional labels being used in different countries. For example, if I am in Japan, imported products often have a Japanese version of the ingredient list and health information printed on a sticker which is pasted over some part of the package. It is similar in Taiwan, though it doesn’t just stop there.

If I go to the cereal aisle at Costco (where everything is imported), it is obvious that they have paid a lot of money to some worker to cross out "cholesterol" with a big black pen. The boxes of cereal say things like "Beneficial for your health and proven to lower cholesterol." If one can read English, it is still pretty obvious what the cereal company wanted to communicate to the consumer, even if whatever branch of goverment in Taiwan said it was not OK to make the claim.

On boxes of organic soymilk, stickers were placed over part of the English write up saying it supported good health. The sticker covered up "… recommended value of vitamin D. Soymilk not only may help reduce the risk of osteoporosis, but, as apart of a low-fat diet, may also help prevent heart disease."

That one I had to peel off the sticker with my fingernails to see what was there. Even in this case, I think it hurts more to cover up the text. If the text were not covered up, I would not have bothered to read it. I think it would be the same with most people. Normally, I only read the ingredient list to determine if there is anything I can’t digest or don’t want to digest amongst the ingredients (both in Chinese and English if possible, since the two often disagree). But since the advertisting blurb was covered up, I wanted to know what it was.

The soymilk in question is fortified with tricalcium citrate, do it is definitely in a form the body can absorb. Is it because Taiwan doesn’t want people to be mislead by soymilk in general that they require the label be covered? Ordinarily in Asia ex-Japan, soymilk isn’t fortified with any vitamins or calcium. It is kind of strange that they cover that part up, but not the questionable organic certification by for-profit QAI. The organic standards in Taiwan are more strict than those of the USA where the soymilk came from.

I also wonder what would have happened if they were truthful about other items added to the soymilk that can be harmful to the body. Would it have been accepted then, or would they have had to put a sticker over both the negative and positive aspects? For example, it has carrageenan (a thickner that comes from red seaweed) added, which has been linked to Crohn’s Disease. It also has Vitamin B12, but does not say what kind. I can only assume it is cyanocobalamin B12, as it is the cheapest. That kind releases cyanide into the body if the body can use it at all. Then there is the large amount of cane juice added to the mix…

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