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Food Labelling and Advertisements

Food label refers to any descriptive material comprising words, pictures and diagrams that appear on the package of food. The label informs consumers of the nature, contents, quantity and quality of the food. It also provides information on the source of the food.




Statutory requirement

The Singapore Food Regulations require all prepacked food products for sale in Singapore to be labelled according to the requirements specified. You may download the booklet, A Guide to Food Labelling and Advertisements (version July 2014) for your easy reference and a step-by-step guide to self-check food labels and advertisements.

 

Nutrient function claims

In principle, nutrient function claims may be allowed if the following criteria are met:

  • The claim is about essential nutrients that have established recommended intakes and/or are of nutritional importance.
  • There is sufficient generally accepted scientific evidence to prove the suggested function or role of the nutrient as claimed.
  • The claim enables the public to understand the information provided and its significance to their overall daily diet.
  • The particular nutrient mentioned is present in an amount that either meets the requirements of the Food Regulations, or the requirements of the nutrient claim guidelines established by the Health Promotion Board. The product carrying the claim should also be labelled in accordance with the requirements of the Food Regulations for use of nutrition claims, including claims relating to vitamins and minerals.
  • The claim does not state or imply that the nutrient is for prevention or treatment of a disease.

List of acceptable Nutrient Function Claims for All Foods

(I) Macronutrients

Protein

  • Protein provides the essential amino acids needed to aid in the building and maintenance of body tissues.
  • Protein helps in tissue building and growth. 

Lactose

  • Low lactose content allows easier digestion/ eases digestion for people who are lactose intolerant.
Dietary Fibre
  • Aids the digestive system.

(II) Vitamins and minerals

Vitamin A

  • Vitamin A is essential for the functioning of the eye.
  • Vitamin A helps to maintain normal skin and mucous membrane.
Vitamin B
  • Vitamins B1, B2 and B3 help to release energy from proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
  • Vitamin B6 is important for the production of energy.
  • Vitamin B12 is necessary for fat, carbohydrate and protein metabolism.
  • Vitamin B12 is needed for/helps in the formation of red blood cell.
Vitamin C
  • Vitamin C enhances absorption of iron from non meat products.
Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin D3 helps support calcium absorption and improves bone strength.
  • Vitamin D3 helps the body utilize calcium and phosphorus.
Vitamin E
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect cells in the body.
  • Anti-oxidants like carotenes and Vitamin E help to protect cells from free radicals that may have escaped the natural processes of our body system.
Calcium
  • Calcium helps build/to support development of strong bones and teeth.
Iodine
  • Iodine is essential for the synthesis of thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland.
Iron
  • Iron is an important component of red blood cells which carry oxygen to all parts of the body to help the body’s production of energy.
  • Iron is needed to produce haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues.
  • Iron is needed to produce myoglobin, the protein that helps supply oxygen to muscle.
Folate (for pregnant women)
  • Folate helps support foetus’ growth and overall development.
  • Folate plays a role in the formation of red blood cells.
  • Folate, taken before and during early pregnancy, helps in the mental/normal and overall development of foetus.
  • Folic acid is essential/important for growth and division of cells.
Vitamin K and vitamin D work synergistically on bone metabolism to improve bone strength/ build strong bones.


Magnesium
  • Magnesium helps in the absorption and retention of calcium.
  • Magnesium contributes to energy metabolism and the maintenance of bone and teeth.
Phosphorus contributes to bone development.

Zinc is essential for growth.


List of acceptable Nutrient Function Claims specific to infant formula, infant's food and foods for young children (up to 6 years of age)

Choline helps support overall mental functioning.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (ARA) are important building blocks for development of the brain and eyes in infant. (only for food for children up to 3 years of age)

Nucleotides are essential to normal cell function and replication, which are important for the overall growth and development of infant.

Taurine helps to support overall mental and physical development.

Zinc helps in physical development.

Prebiotic blend (Galacto-oligosaccharides and long chain Fructo-oligosaccharide)*, zinc and iron support child's natural defences
*The combination of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and long chain fructo-oligosaccharide (IcFOS) present in the product must be in the ratio of 9:1.


Nucleotides* support body's natural defences (only for infant formula targeting infants up to 1 year of age)
*The total nucleotides content must be within the range of 72mg/L to 115mg/L


 

Other function claims

Other function claims may only be used in the exact approved form, and not be presented as a product specific health claim. Truncated or reworded versions which deviate from the intended meaning of the originally approved claim is not acceptable.

List of acceptable Other Function Claims for All Foods

Collagen

  • Collagen is a protein in connective tissues found in skin, bones and muscles.
Inulin*
  • Inulin supports calcium absorption.*

*The calcium content of the food product must meet the requirements of regulations 8A and 11 of the Singapore Food Regulations; a statement of the amount of inulin present in each serving or other equivalents of the product must be declared on the product label; and food manufacturers who wish to use the claim on their food products have to ensure that the amount and combinations of shorter and longer chain inulin present in the product is able to bring about the claimed effect.

Probiotics*

  • Helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.
  • Helps in digestion.
  • Helps to maintain a desirable balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.
  • Helps to suppress/fight against harmful bacteria in the digestive system, thereby helping to maintain a healthy digestive system.
Prebiotics*
  • Prebiotic promotes the growth of good Bifidus bacteria to help maintain a healthy digestive system.
  • Inulin helps support growth of beneficial bacteria/good intestinal flora in the gut.
  • Oligofructose stimulates the bifido-bacteria, resulting in a significant increase of the beneficial bifidobacteria in the intestinal tract. At the same time, the presence of less desirable bacteria is significantly reduced.
  • Inulin helps increase intestinal bifidobacteria and helps maintain a good intestinal environment.
*Need to specify the name(s) of the probiotic or prebiotic whenever a claim is made in relation to that probiotic or prebiotic.

List of acceptable Other Function Claims for Specific Foods

Special purpose foods containing phytosterols, phytosterol esters, phytostanols or phytostanol esters*

  • Plant sterols/stanols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High blood cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
*This category of special purpose foods is specified under a new regulation 250A of the Food Regulations.

These products should carry the following mandatory information on their labels:

  1. The product is a special purpose food intended exclusively for people who want to lower their blood cholesterol level;
  2. Patients on cholesterol lowering medication should only consume the product under medical supervision;
  3. The product may not be nutritionally appropriate for pregnant and breast-feeding women and children under the age of 5 years;
  4. The product should be used as part of a balanced and varied diet, including regular consumption of fruit and vegetables to help maintain carotenoid levels;
  5. Consumption of more than 3 g per day of added phytosterols or phytostanols should be avoided; and
  6. A statement suggesting the amount of the food (in g or ml) to be consumed each time (referred to as a serving) and the number of servings suggested to be consumed per day, with a statement of the amount of phytosterols or phytostanols that each serving contains.

 

Application for use of nutrient specific diet-related health claims

Local food manufacturers and importers may submit applications to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) or the Health Promotion Board (HPB) for use of the following nutrient specific diet-related health claims.

  • A healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, with regular exercise, helps to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. (here state the name of the food) is a good source of/high in/enriched in/fortified with calcium.
  • A healthy diet low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. (here state the name of the food) is sodium free/ very low in/ low in/ reduced in sodium.
  • A healthy diet low in saturated fat and trans fat, may reduce the risk of heart disease. (here state the name of the food) is free of/ low in saturated fats, trans fats.
  • A healthy diet rich in whole grains+, fruits and vegetables that contain dietary fibre, may reduce the risk of heart disease. (here state the name of the food) is low/ free of fat and high in dietary fibre.
  • A healthy diet rich in fibre-containing foods such as whole grains+, fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancers. (here state the name of the food) is free of/ low in fat and high in dietary fibre.

The approved health claims and criteria have been developed based on Singapore's existing national nutrient claims guidelines formulated by HPB, with reference taken from currently available guidelines established by major developed countries.

Only food products that have been first approved by HPB to carry the Healthier Choice Symbol may be considered for application of use of these health claims. HPB will conduct pre-market evaluation of applications that are concurrently submitted with applications for the Healthier Choice Symbol. AVA will conduct pre-market evaluation of separate applications.

Applications may be sent to the following AVA/HPB contacts

Regulatory Programmes Division
Regulatory Administration Department
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority
5, Maxwell Road, Tower Block
#18-00, MND Complex
Singapore 069110
Fax: 6220 6068
Email: AVA_LabelsAndClaims@ava.gov.sg

Nutrition Department
Adult Health Division
Health Promotion Board
No 3 Second Hospital Avenue #04-00
Singapore 168937
Fax: 6435 3609
Email: hpb_nutrition_dept@hpb.gov.sg

+ Please refer to the new regulation 40A for the definition and labelling requirements for "wholegrain" products.

The criteria for use of these health claims are tabulated below. These information can also be found under the revised regulation 9 and a new Fourteenth Schedule of the Food Regulations.

(1) A healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, with regular exercise, helps to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis. (here state the name of the food) is a good source of/high in/enriched in/fortified with calcium.

Criteria
  1. At least 50% of calcium recommended daily allowance (RDA), which is taken as 800mg; and
  2. Low in fat (not more than 3g fat per 100g or not more than 1.5g fat per 100ml), or
    Fat free (not more than 0.15g fat per 100g or 100ml).

(2) A healthy diet low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a risk factor for stroke and heart disease. (here state the name of the food) is sodium free/very low in/low in/reduced in sodium.

Criteria
  1. No added salt; or
    Salt/sodium free (not more than 5mg sodium per 100g); or
    Very low in salt/sodium (not more than 40mg per 100g); or
    Low in sodium (not more than 120mg per 100g); or
    Reduced sodium (if sodium content per reference quantity is not more than 15% of sodium RDA, which is taken as 2000mg).

(3) A healthy diet low in saturated fat and trans fat, may reduce the risk of heart disease. (here state the name of the food) is free of/low in saturated fats, trans fats.

Criteria
  1. Low in saturated fat (not more than 1.5g saturated fat per 100g, and not more than 10% of kilocalories from saturated fat), or
  2. Free of saturated fat (not more than 0.5g saturated fat per 100g, and not more than 1% of the total fat is trans fat); and
    Free of trans fat (less than 0.5g trans fat per 100g); and
  3. Low in sugar (not more than 5g per 100g or not more than 2.5g per 100ml), or
    Sugar free (not more than 0.5g per 100g), or
    Unsweetened or no added sugar; and
  4. Cholesterol at not more than 100mg per 100g; and
  5. Reference quantity of the food product should not contain sodium in an amount exceeding 25% of sodium RDA, which is taken as 2000mg.

(4) A healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables that contain dietary fibre, may reduce the risk of heart disease. (here state the name of the food) is low in/free of fat and high in dietary fibre.

Criteria
  1. A product from these food groups - whole grains, fruit, vegetables or fibre fortified foods; and
  2. Low in fat (not more than 3g fat per 100g or not more than 1.5g fat per 100ml), or Fat free (not more than 0.15g fat per 100g or 100ml); and
  3. High in dietary fibre (not less than 3g per 100 kcal or not less than 6g per 100g or 100ml); and
  4. With at least 25% of the dietary fibre comprising soluble fibre.

(5) A healthy diet rich in fibre containing foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of some types of cancers. (here state the name of the food) is free/ low in fat and high in dietary fibre.

Criteria
  1. A product from these food groups - whole grains, fruit, vegetables or fibre fortified foods; and
  2. Low in fat (not more than 3g fat per 100g or not more than 1.5g fat per 100ml), or Fat free (not more than 0.15g fat per 100g or 100ml); and
  3. High in dietary fibre (not less than 3g per 100 kcal or not less than 6g per 100g); and
  4. Reference quantity of the food product should not contain sodium in an amount exceeding 25% of sodium RDA, which is taken as 2000mg.
Application for Use of New Nutrient Function and Other Function Claims

Advisory Committee on Evaluation of Health Claim

AVA’s Advisory Committee on Evaluation of Health Claims was formed in August 2009. The committee has been tasked to

  1. establish a framework and principles for evaluation of health claims in Singapore, based on Codex's recommendations on the scientific basis for health claim;
  2. evaluate and make recommendations on applications for use of “other function claims” as defined by Codex; and
  3. advise and update, relevant scientific developments and legislation relating to evaluation of health claims.

Composition of the Committee

The Committee comprises reputable scientific experts with relevant professional training and experience from the following government bodies tertiary institutions, and industry associations.

  1. Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority
  2. Health Promotion Board
  3. Health Sciences Authority
  4. SPRING Singapore
  5. National University of Singapore
  6. Singapore Polytechnic
  7. Republic Polytechnic
  8. Consumers Association of Singapore
  9. Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation
  10. Singapore Food Manufacturers’ Association
  11. Health Supplements Industry Association of Singapore
Framework and Principles

The Committee held its first meeting in November 2009 and established a framework and principles for evaluation of health claims in Singapore, based on Codex's recommendations on the scientific basis for health claim.

Guidance Information, Application form and Checklist for Application of New Nutrient Function and Other Function Claims

The Committee also finalised the following guidance information, application form and checklist to assist industry members who wish to apply for the use of new nutrient function and other function claims as defined by Codex submit their applications.

 

Methods of Analysis

It is the responsibility of importers and manufacturers to ensure the accuracy of the nutrition information declared in their product labels. Importers and manufacturers should engage a suitable testing laboratory to verify the nutrient content of their products. A list of Singapore Accreditation Council-Singapore Laboratory Accreditation Scheme (SAC-SINGLAS) accredited laboratories can be found here.
The methods of analysis used should be those published in the most recent versions of the "Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International". Other collaboratively studied methods such as those published by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the Nordic Committee on Food Analysis (NMKL) are also acceptable. In house or journal methods with adequate method validation data may be considered if they are validated for the food matrix being analysed.

AVA conducts laboratory testing to verify the accuracy of nutrition information declared in food labels from time to time. The methods of analysis currently used are those published in the most recent versions of the "Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International". New methods may be adopted as and when improvements in methodology are available.

 

Average Quantity System (AQS) for Net Content Declaration of Prepacked Foods

AVA has, in consultation with the Weights and Measures Office (WMO) of SPRING Singapore, completed a review on the minimum quantity declaration requirement for prepacked foods under the Food Regulations, so as to keep abreast with the latest international guidelines, and ensure consistency in food product quantity declaration at the national level.

The Food Regulations previously required the minimum quantity of the contents present in a package of food to be declared in terms of volumetric measure or net weight on the label. However, the weight and volumetric measures of prepacked goods in general are also governed by the Weights and Measures Act and its Regulations, and these gazettes have been amended to replace the Minimum Quantity System (MQS) with the latest internationally accepted Average Quantity System (AQS). The Weights and Measures Act and its Regulations are administered by WMO. WMO is now actively promoting adoption of AQS among the local industries.

AQS is an internationally recognised system for determining deficiencies in prepacked goods, which provides fairness to packers, manufacturers and consumers. Packers/manufacturers can increase productivity by reducing overfill needed to assure correct quantity. Consumers can be assured that prepacked goods purchased are, on average, equal to the declared quantity.

Internationally, the AQS has already been adopted by major developed countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, the United States and member states of the European Union. At the ASEAN level, the AQS concept has also been incorporated in the document entitled “ASEAN Common Requirements of Pre-packaged Products”, which was adopted by the Working Group of ASEAN Consultative Committee on Standards and Quality in August 2007.

With effect from 15 April 2011, prepacked food products are required to be labelled with the “net” quantity of the food in the wrapper or container, instead of the “minimum” quantity. This will pave the way for the food industry to make use of AQS for the declaration of net contents of their prepacked food products. However, industry members who choose to continue using the Minimum Quantity System may continue to do so and will not be penalised.

Information on the AQS can be downloaded here.
Average Quantity System (AQS)(English slides)

Average Quantity System (AQS)(Mandarin Slides)

International standards OIML R 79 and OIML R 87 relating to the Average Quantity System (AQS):
http://www.oiml.org/download/cds/tc6_r79_1cd.pdf
http://www.oiml.org/publications/R/R087-e04.pdf

Official Chinese translation of OIML R 79 and OIML R 87 relating to the Average Quantity System (AQS):

The above document has been translated into Mandarin for your convenience. Reasonable efforts have been made to provide an accurate translation of the text of the document, however, the official text is the English version of the document. Any discrepancies or differences created in the translation are not binding and have no legal effect for compliance or enforcement purposes. If any questions arise related to the accuracy of the information contained in the Mandarin document, please refer to the English version of the document which is the official version of the document.

 

Guidelines for the declaration of statement of ingredients for food products

It is mandatory for labels of prepacked foods to bear a clear statement of ingredients that specifies the complete list of ingredients, including additives, used in the food. Unless the quantity or proportion of each individual ingredient is specified, the ingredients shall be specified in descending order of the proportions by weight in which they are present. This also applies to compound ingredients which themselves are made up of two or more ingredients. The ingredients listed at the top of the list shall be the one that weighed the most compared to the rest of the ingredients.

Steps on how to declare

You can follow the 4 general steps listed below when declaring the statement of ingredients for food products. An example illustrating the steps below can be found here.

Step 1: List down all the ingredients used in a food product in their exact identities and arrange them in descending order of the proportions in which they are present.

Step 2: Identify the compound ingredients used in the food product. Find out what are the constituents of the compound ingredients by checking with suppliers or any documents (such as product specification sheets) provided by suppliers.

Step 3: Find out whether there are any simplified forms for declaring the ingredients and additives. Food companies may use the permitted generic terms listed under the First Schedule of the Food Regulations for the declaration of ingredients. For food additives, besides declaring their exact chemical names, food companies may use the International Numbering System (INS) or E numbers.

Step 4: Check the presence of any ingredients/additives that are known to cause hypersensitivity and label the exact identities of these ingredients/additives accordingly.

 

Guidelines for the declaration of foods and ingredients known to cause hypersensitivity

The following guidance notes serve to assist food traders to comply with the mandatory requirement under Regulation 5(4)(ea) for the declaration of foods and ingredients known to cause hypersensitivity.

Guidance on what to declare

The following foods and ingredients are required to be declared in the product’s statement of ingredients, when present as an ingredient/additive or as a component of a compound ingredient:

(i) Cereals containing gluten This group includes wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt or their hybridised strains and their products.
(ii) Crustacean and crustacean products This group includes crayfish, prawns, shrimps, lobsters, crabs and their products.
(iii) Eggs and egg products This group includes eggs from laying hens as well as eggs from duck, turkey, quail, goose, gull, guinea fowl and their products.
(iv) Fish and fish products This group also includes molluscs such as oysters, clams, scallops and their products.
(v) Peanuts, soybeans and their products Peanuts may be declared using similar terms such as “groundnuts”. Terms such as “soya” or “soy” can be used for soybeans.
(vi) Milk and milk products (including lactose) This group includes milk from cows, buffaloes, or goats and their products.
(vii) Tree nuts and nut products This group includes almond, hazelnut, walnut, cashew nut, pecan nut, Brazil nut, pistachio nut, macadamia nut and their products.
(viii) Sulphites in concentrates of 10mg/kg or more Sulphites directly added and/or carried over from food ingredients at a total concentration of 10mg/kg or more (calculated in terms of total sulphur dioxide).

Guidance on how to declare

Option 1: Declaration using statement of ingredients

All food ingredients and additives used in food products, including those listed as food ingredients and additives causing hypersensitivity should be declared clearly in the statements of ingredients in descending order by weight. For compound ingredients comprising two or more food ingredients, the compositions in descending order by weight, should be declared in parenthesis next to the compound ingredients. For example, “Batter (water, cornstarch, wheat flour, salt, sodium bicarbonate)”

Option 2: Declaration using “contain” statement

When a “contain” statement is used, it should appear immediately after the statement of ingredients. However, information provided in the “contain” statement should not contradict that declared in the statement of ingredients. All food ingredients and additives used in foods should be declared clearly in the statement of ingredients. The “contain” statement should not be used to declare additional food ingredients/additives which are not declared in the statement of ingredients. Allergenic ingredients which are unintentionally introduced into foods such as through contamination or carried-over from such ingredients during manufacturing, transportation, storage or any other means must not be declared in the “contain” statement.

Tips for declaration
If the food allergen is... Option 1:
Declaration using statement of ingredients
Option 2:
Declaration using “contain” statement
i) a food ingredient or a food additive

E.g. peanut oil, lecithin
List and declare clearly all food ingredients in descending order by weight. Generic terms should be avoided when declaring food allergens. For instance, generic terms such as “vegetable oil” and “emulsifier” should not be used for peanut oil and lecithin respectively. Refer to (iii) for proper declaration. All food ingredients and additives must be declared clearly in the statement of ingredients. If generic terms are used in the statement of ingredients, the food allergens can be declared in the “Contains” statement as follows:

Contains: peanut, egg
ii) an ingredient of a compound ingredient

E.g. a cake made of batter containing wheat flour
Composition of the compound ingredients have to be declared in parenthesis next to the compound ingredients.

E.g. batter (water, cornstarch, wheat flour, salt, sodium bicarbonate)
If wheat flour is declared as “flour” in the statement of ingredients, the “Contains” statement can be used as follows:

Contains: wheat
iii) a food ingredient or food additive derived from allergenic sources

E.g. peanut oil, lecithin, sodium caseinate
Description must be provided in order to highlight ingredients that are derived from allergenic sources.

E.g. “peanut oil”, “lecithin (egg product), “sodium caseinate (from milk)”
A “Contains” statement can be provided to highlight the source of allergens for peanut oil, lecithin, sodium caseinate, as follows:

Contains: peanut, egg, milk

Special considerations
  1. To be in line with international practice, when cereals, whey and nuts are used as distillates for alcoholic beverages, or fish gelatine or isinglass* as fining/clarifying agents in beer and wine, these ingredients are not required to be declared on the label. Food traders have to bear full responsibility for ensuring that the information they choose not to declare does not, in actual fact, cause harm to consumers.
  2. The use of disclaimer statements such as “may contain” to declare the presence of ingredients known to cause hypersensitivity, when manufacturers cannot discount the possibility of cross contamination in their food products, is not encouraged. This may unnecessarily restrict consumer choice and undermine valid warnings. Nonetheless, food traders whose products carry the “may contain” statement, may be required to provide justification if consumers raise any concerns on the presence of potential food allergens.
* Isinglass is a semi-transparent whitish gelatine prepared from the swim bladders of sturgeon and certain other fishes and is used as a clarifying agent in beer and wine.

 

If you have further enquiries

Please call the AVA Contact Centre via 6325 7625 or email us.

Alternatively, please visit our Contact Info page.

 
Last updated on 02 September 2014
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