The right tag

Published: Thursday 15 April 2004

-- The Sri Lankan health ministry has strengthened its norms for food labelling and advertisements. It is executing new parameters for cereals, vegetables and spices to improve the quality of the country's food products and minimise consumer exploitation. The parameters are based on moisture content, food colouring, and fat and sugar content in the product.

The drive will also help in checking the illegal marketing of tea, coffee and other products. It may be noted that unauthorised and poor quality tea is regularly passed off as Sri Lankan or Ceylon tea in the island nation. The ministry has now placed restrictions on nutritional and protein claims by producers of health foods.

Atula Kahandaliyanage, director general of health and Chief Food Authority (CFA), says: "Truthful labelling is considered a consumer rights issue by law." In order to ensure adherence to comprehensive labelling norms, the ministry has stressed that labels must be in three languages -- Sinhalese, Tamil and English -- for the benefit of those who are not natives of the land. Further, no label or advertisement can claim that a medical practitioner or association has recommended the product unless the same is approved by the CFA.

Till now Sri Lanka had no standards for labelling or advertising. The penalty for any violation in this regard was a meagre US $50. Now the health ministry has proposed a fine of US $500. The new rules would be applicable to all advertisements in print and broadcast media. The ministry plans to give a notice period to producers in tea estates and owners of private factories, to allow them to upgrade their production.

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