Food labels in Hong Kong – the Yoghurt quiz

I’ve come across this many times in the supermarkets aimed towards foreigners, Westerners or Expats (so we’re talking about Fusion, International, Taste, Great, Three Sixty, Oliver’s etc.) – there is a shelf full of imported Yoghurts and all of them have some sort of black marking on the packaging.

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Yoghurt quiz 1

Those blacked out lines of text hide different nutrition claims. So if some yoghurt says it has ‘extra calcium’ that gets crossed out. Or if it says it is ‘fat free’ this gets crossed out.

I always picture some poor guy at the customs office of the Hong Kong shipping port with a lifetime supply of Sharpie markers, painstakingly crossing out health claims one-by-one. But why is that? It turns out if a foreign company sells less than a certain number of units of a product in Hong Kong, these products are exempt from nutrition labelling.

However, that means they can’t make any nutrition claims at all on the package. It is much easier for these traders to simply cross out a claim, such as ‘low fat’ than it is to go through the whole process of getting the full nutrition label content approved.

Yoghurt quiz 2

Yoghurt quiz 3

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But this just means that I’m standing at the supermarket yoghurt shelf, trying to decipher what the yoghurt claims to be…and of course, this expands to juices too. For example, the orange juice had its claim of ‘extra calcium’ refuted why the ‘antioxidants A and C’ in the green goodness juice are not available in Hong Kong.

Drink quiz 2

Drink quiz 1


6 responses to “Food labels in Hong Kong – the Yoghurt quiz

  1. My imported food bugbear is the taped labels they put over the nutritional information and ingredients – I have to surreptitiously peel the Thai version off to see what is in it, sometimes ripping the packaging and then returning it to the shelf before a shop assistant sees me.

  2. Ah, I was wondering why certain foods had black marker and nutritional stickers on! I find that also, the nutritional label that they stick on often covers the cooking instructions, which is pretty annoying.

  3. This made me laugh, as I just peeled off my yogurt ‘cover up’ label 2 days ago, dying of curiosity. We just moved here a month ago and noticed this phenomenon on milk, juice, and yogurt. My peel-off didn’t reveal too much, though – just like you said, streamlined claims, some additional info on manufacturing/distribution facilities..I thought I’d uncover some big food safety scam. Thankfully no!

  4. I wondered what are the reasons behind to have exemption of nutrition labeling ? there’re no harm in informing consumers what are the extra nutrients in the products, right?

    • It’s just that there are different rule here in Hong Kong – so the importers have to add extra labels. Sometimes they are just repeating what’s on the packaging already, which is a little bit silly. But that’s just how it is.

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