food labels
What do the food labels mean? Find out. Image Credit: Instagram/ADPHC

Dubai: No time to go through the long list of nutrition facts to know if a food is healthy for you or not? Well, thanks to a new food-labelling system in the UAE, you can now find out the nutritional value of a food at a quick glance.

In order to encourage a healthy and happy lifestyle, the UAE has introduced a simplified food labelling system, designed to support people in making quick, informed decisions.

In 2019, the UAE Cabinet approved a Nutrition Labelling Policy under which food items have colour-coded labels on the front of the pack. Based on individual colours – red, amber and green – people are able to easily identify which food product is high or low in fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content, and make informed choices accordingly. The labels will also carry the calorie count of each food product.

The labelling is required for canned, solid and liquid foods, but excludes fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, meat and fish.

The policy was developed by the National Programme for Happiness and Wellbeing in cooperation with the Food Security Office.

While the food label requirement is currently voluntary, it will become mandatory by January 2022. It will be implemented by the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma).

What do the colours mean?

The nutritional information is written per 100 grams or per 100 ml or both.

The red colour on the food label indicates that the product is high in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar. In an education post shared on its social media channels on March 14, Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) recommend limiting foods that contain a lot of red on the label, or, if eaten, people are advised to reduce their consumption.

The amber colour in the food label indicates that the product is moderate in the following nutrients – salt, sugar, fat and saturated fat – and can be eaten in moderation.

If the food label is mostly green, this means that it is low in salt, sugar, fat, saturated fat; and is a good, healthy option.

Why the colour-coded food labels?

According to information shared by The National Program for Happiness and Wellbeing, 68 per cent people in the UAE are overweight, 29 per cent have high blood pressure and 44 per cent have high cholesterol levels. The colour-coded labels are designed to help consumers make better lifestyle choices.

The policy requires food suppliers in the UAE to add simple nutritional information on fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt content in three colours – red, amber and green – based on their levels, on the front of food packages, making it easy for customers to see whether the contents are healthy or not.