- Focus Group Meetings on the Us of Nutrition Labels (11.11.2008, 13.11.2008, 18.11.2008, 13.12.2008)
- Focus Group Meeting on Publicity and Education on Nutrition Labelling (I) — Shopping Guide, Food Safety Day 2009 and Short Radio Programme (22.4.2009)
- Focus Group Meeting on Publicity and Education on Nutrition Labelling (II) — Dedicated Webpage on Nutrition Labelling and Online Interactive Tool (23.4.2009)
- Focus Group Meeting on the Effectiveness of Food Safety Message Dissemination through Food Safety Bulletin (29.9.2009)
- Focus Group Meeting on the Release of Test Results on Food (16.12.2009)
Focus Group Meetings on the Use of Nutrition Labels
The meetings were held on 11, 13 (two sessions), 18 November and 13 December to understand the knowledge and practice on reading nutrition labels among different groups of CLG members (including homemakers, males aged between 50 and 64, students, the elderly and others). Views on publicity channels and educational activities on nutrition labelling were also collected.
Summary of the meetings
- During discussion and activities on nutrition labelling, different levels of understanding of nutrition labels were demonstrated among CLG members. Overall speaking, most of them had encountered difficulties or held misconceptions when reading and using nutrition labels which include:
- Unable to grasp the skills in reading nutrition labels.
- Found it difficult to understand and apply some information on nutrition labels (e.g. per serving, number of servings per package and %NRV).
- Confused between food labels and nutrition labels.
In addition, it was observed that certain groups of CLG members faced the following problems when using nutrition labels:
- Homemakers found it was difficult to deal with numerous information on nutrition labels and urged for simple and easy steps to using them. Meanwhile, some of them said that nutritional values were usually not regarded as one of their prime considerations for purchasing prepackaged food.
- Males aged between 50 and 64 claimed that reading nutrition label was time-consuming and found it difficult to accomplish within limited shopping time.
- The elderly could not fully understand the functions and health effects of some nutrients (e.g. trans fat and carbohydrates) which formed obstacles when reading nutrition labels.
- Both males aged between 50 and 64 and the elderly opined that small print or sole English presentation on some nutrition labels hindered them from reading it.
- Students were more familiar with the information and use of nutrition labels. However, they occasionally overlooked nutritional values for taste or simply read the nutrition claims on the package and skipped the nutrition labels.
For the publicity channels on nutrition labelling, CLG members made the following suggestions. Means of publicity were listed in order of popularity:
- Television advertisements, television programmes, booklets/leaflets, talks/seminars, radio programmes, posters, exhibitions and online resources.
- On the other hand, CLG members from "student" group suggested that school curriculum and teaching kits for teachers could be used as means.
- CLG members from "others" group proposed to disseminate information on nutrition labelling through newspaper articles.
In order to better suit the needs of the public, CLG members' views and suggestions were incorporated when preparing educational resources for publicity and education campaign on nutrition labels.
- Educational resources including Announcement in the Public Interest on Television/Radio, thematic educational video,booklets, posters, exhibition boards and newspaper articles with the theme "Turn and Look for Healthier Food Choices" were produced to disseminate information on nutrition labelling to the public-
- The importance and benefits of reading nutrition labels were stressed to make the public understand that information on nutrition labels can help them make informed food choices.
- The difference between food labels and nutrition labels was explained.
- The functions, health effects and daily intake amount of energy and different nutrients were introduced through the booklet named Energy and Nutrients.
- Four booklets, namely Diabetes Mellitus and Carbohydrates , High Blood Pressure and Sodium, Heart Diseases and Fats as well as Weight Maintenance and Energy, were s pecially prepared to elaborate the relationships between common chronic diseases in Hong Kong and nutrition. They also explain how to make use of information on nutrition labels to choose suitable foods.
- In order to facilitate the public to understand and apply the various information on nutrition labels, three simple steps to read nutrition label were introduced in two booklets named How to Read Nutrition Labels and Use the Nutrition Labels to Choose "3 Low"Food as well as thematic educational video. The information aims at assisting the public to make healthier food choices. Common prepackaged foods were also adopted as examples to explain the meanings and use of terminology on nutrition labels.
In response to the concerns of some CLG members over the language and font size used in nutrition labels, we have taken the following actions:
- English and Chinese are shown correspondingly on nutrition labels in all publicity and educational resources for easy reference.
- Except the existing souvenirs including magnetic stickers, table mats, calendars and smart card holders, the production of easy-to-carry magnifying glasses is currently under consideration.
Moreover, a series of activities are planned by making reference to CLG members' views on the publicity channels:
- train-the-trainers workshops and teaching kits for our education partners including nutritionists and teachers;
- roving exhibitions and talks;
- large-scale publicity programmes with nutrition labelling as the theme (e.g. Food Safety Day) including a broadcast on radio; and
- additional online resources.
Focus Group Meeting on Publicity and Education on Nutrition Labelling (I) — Shopping Guide, Food Safety Day 2009 and Short Radio Programme
The meeting was held on 22 April to seek CLG members' views on the content and arrangements of various publicity and educational resources and activities on nutrition labelling.
To assist consumers in making good use of the information on nutrition labels for healthier food choices when purchasing prepackaged food, a draft Shopping Guide has been prepared.
- Views/Suggestions on the Content and Design of the Draft Shopping Guide
- Members found the draft Guide very comprehensive but difficult to read and use during shopping. They suggested putting useful information (e.g. energy conversion table) on handy pocket-sized printed publicity materials.
- On a related issue, members opined that the booklets prepared by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) could enhance public understanding on nutrition labelling. However, they stressed that resources for the general public should be simple in content with more graphics in order to increase their reading interest and help them understand the messages.
Food Safety Day 2009 and Short Radio Programme
The CFS organises a Food Safety Day annually to disseminate food safety messages through variety show, game booths and exhibition. The main theme of the next Food Safety Day 2009 was nutrition labelling. To tie in with the Nutrition Labelling Publicity and Education Campaign, CFS also planned to spread the relevant information through radio programmes.
- Views/Suggestions on the Proposed Activities to be held on the Food Safety Day 2009 and Short Radio Programme
- Members put forward various suggestions including drama, real case example on how to use nutrition labels in achieving better health and talk given by healthcare professionals for the stage show of Food Safety Day 2009.
- As for off-stage activities, apart from game booths, exhibition and computer games as originally planned, members suggested that a consultation booth could be set up for professionals to explain the use of nutrition labels to the public individually.
- Regarding short radio programme, in addition to drama, members suggested that other publicity formats (e.g. slogans, adaptation songs and short poems) could also be considered.
- Taking account of members' views on the Shopping Guide, we changed its proposed form of booklet to handy shopping cards to serve as a quick reference for the public to make healthier food choices when purchasing prepackaged food.
- Real prepackaged food with nutrition labels were being prepared as examples to show different reference amounts of foods such as 100 grams of biscuits, 100 millilitres of soy milk and one serving of biscuits on CFS website.
- Food Safety Day 2009 with the theme on nutrition labelling was successfully held on 11 July 2009 (Saturday) by the CFS and Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). Suggestions made by members at the meeting were included in the event:
- A teenager was invited to share how to make use of nutrition labels to lose weight;
- Dietitians were invited to explain the benefits of balanced diet and of reading nutrition labels on stage; and
- A consultation booth was provided as off-stage activity and dietitians answered public questions on nutrition labelling individually.
- The short radio dramas were broadcast on RTHK Radio 1 from 20 July to 14 August 2009 to disseminate nutrition labelling messages in a light-hearted manner.
Focus Group Meeting on Publicity and Education on Nutrition Labelling (II) — Dedicated Webpage on Nutrition Labelling and Online Interactive Tool
The meeting was held on 23 April to seek CLG members' views on the dedicated webpage on nutrition labelling and online interactive tool.
Dedicated Webpage on Nutrition Labelling
A designated area with the title "Nutrition Labelling Scheme" has been set up on the CFS website to present publicity and educational resources on nutrition labelling. In order to facilitate users to locate information on nutrition labelling more easily and quickly, CFS planned to revamp the designated area and considered launching a dedicated webpage on nutrition labelling.
- View/Suggestions on the Draft Content and Design of the Dedicated Webpage
- Members stressed that before detailed elaboration on nutrition labels and nutrition claims, it would be better to give a brief introduction on the nutrition labels and food labels in order to reduce the public confusion over them. Also, they suggested that the benefits of reading nutrition labels could be highlighted at the beginning of webpage to increase users' interests.
- In order to facilitate users to browse the webpage and search for information they need, members suggested that all subjects under publicity and educational resources on nutrition labelling could be shown by category on the same interface. Other suggestions on webpage design include the use of suitable symbols and graphics to make it more attractive.
- Some members expressed that the existing designated area of nutrition labelling on the CFS website was not catchy enough. A majority of members supported the creation of a dedicated webpage on nutrition labelling and suggested that its URL address should be simple and easy to remember.
Online Interactive Tool
An online interactive tool was being prepared which could provide two practical functions: (i) compare the energy and nutritional contents of prepackaged food and (ii) calculate individual energy and nutritional intakes and the contribution to recommended daily intake/limits.
Members were satisfied with the two functions and suggested:
- Increasing the number of food to be entered for comparison.
- Providing boxes for entering personal intake goals of energy and nutrients instead of just fixing the values based a 2000-kcal diet to suit the needs of different people.
Dedicated Webpage on Nutrition Labelling
- We planned to set up a dedicated webpage on nutrition labelling to present the relevant information systematically. Before the official launch of the dedicated webpage, we made the following changes to the existing designated area of nutrition labelling on the CFS website.
- "Benefits of Nutrition Information on Food Labels" was introduced at the beginning of the webpage. A new interactive item would be added later to introduce food labels and nutrition labels in the webpage.
- The subjects and links under the relevant publicity and educational resources were listed by category and with file sizes on the same interface to save time for information searching. Signs were also added next to new resources as a reminder.
(Please click here to browse the revamped webpage)
Online Interactive Tool on Nutrition Labelling
In response to members' suggestions, we made the following changes to the online interactive tool:
- The number of prepackaged foods to be entered was increased from two to five for comparison on their energy and nutritional contents.
- A new function to enter personal energy and nutrients intake goals was provided to cater for the needs of different people.
Focus Group Meeting on the Effectiveness of Food Safety Message Dissemination through Food Safety Bulletin
The meeting was held on 29 September to seek CLG members' views on the content and distribution channel of the Food Safety Bulletin (Bulletin) published quarterly by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS).
- Members generally opined that the content of the Bulletin was concise, useful and related to topical issues. However, they thought that it mainly used one-way presentation and lacked interactive elements for readers. They suggested adding a new column in the Bulletin for the CFS to respond to public opinions and enquiries on food safety and share the information with readers in the form of case studies.
- Regarding the topics to be covered in the Bulletin, members suggested covering the risks of traditional Chinese or indigenous foods; or common unhygienic food handling practices of the general public.
- Some members suggested adding quiz games to the Bulletin to raise the public interest in reading it.
- Length/Level of Difficulty
- Members thought that the length of the Bulletin was appropriate.
- Most members said that on the whole, the content of the Bulletin was simple and suitable for people with junior secondary education to read. However, they thought it was better to add common names next to special terms (e.g. arsenic (pishuang)).
- In addition, members proposed using more illustrations to help the public understand abstract concepts, e.g. using images of real food products to explain weight units.
- Members thought that there was room for improvement in the design of the Bulletin. They emphasised that fancy pictures or patterns would hinder reading and should not be used as background.
- Members proposed that the front cover design of the Bulletin be modified and the time when the Bulletin was published be shown in a suitable place to enable readers to identify different issues more easily.
- Distribution channel
- To achieve a wider geographical coverage, members suggested that apart from the existing distribution points, the Bulletin should be made available to the general public at shopping malls, district offices of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, etc.
- Also, members suggested adding a new column in the Bulletin for people to sign up as long-term readers.
After taking CLG members' views and suggestions into account, we will make the following changes in the first issue of the Bulletin in 2010.
We will create the following new columns/items:
- To set out a Question and Answer section to address public enquiries on food safety;
- To discuss the unhygienic food handling practices and some public misunderstandings so as to bring out proper food handling tips; and
- To add quiz game(s) based on contents of each issue.
- Length/Level of Difficulty
- The number of pages of the Bulletin will remain unchanged but the number of articles for each column will be adjusted for an increase in the number of new columns.
- To make the Bulletin more readable, pictures will be inserted appropriately into articles and pictures of real food products will be used as far as possible for illustration. Also, common names will be provided for some special terms to make it more comprehensible.
- In response to CLG members' suggestions, we are going to modify the design to make the Bulletin more attractive and distinctive.
- To help the public identify different issues of the Bulletin, suitable indication will be shown on the front cover (e.g. Quarterly publication (2010 1st Issue)).
- Distribution channel
- We have been exploring the feasibility of distributing the Bulletin at the premises of relevant institutions and departments.
- Other methods to access "Food Safety Bulletin" such as collecting printed copies at Communication Resource Unit or reading the online version on CFS website will be marked on the back cover of the Bulletin.
Focus Group Meeting on the Release of Test Results on Food
The meeting was held on 16 December to collect members' opinion on the content and format of presenting test results in food surveillance, risk assessment studies and food safety incidents. Members' suggestions on the channels of disseminating the test results to the general public were also sought.
- Members were generally satisfied with the content of the results released related to food samples tested in food surveillance, risk assessment studies and food safety incidents .
- Most of the members agreed with the existing practice adopted by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of mainly releasing the details of the unsatisfactory food products. They commented that they do not have enough time to go through the results of those satisfactory products.
- Regarding the unsatisfactory products, members showed interest in the follow up actions taken by CFS and the concerned premises (e.g. whether the premises had stopped the sale of the products). They also expressed their concerns on the underlying cause of the unsatisfactory test results, possible adverse health effects as well as the corresponding advice given by CFS to the general public.
- Members were also interested to know the details of the importers, distributors and/or retailers of the unsatisfactory products.
- Presentation format
- Members provided valuable suggestions on improving the presentation format of the results such as modifying the background colour and fonts as well as inserting graphics into the reports, etc.
- Dissemination channels
- Suggestions on means of disseminating the test results were also gathered, which include displaying posters, distributing fact sheet, making announcement on popular websites and publishing results on magazines.
- All along, CFS has included the follow-up actions, possible adverse health effects, and public advice in the press release related to the announcement of unsatisfactory test results and this practice will be continued.
- CFS has been providing information related to food products with unsatisfactory results and the concerned food premises or retailers/distributors/ manufacturers to the media. Public could get the information from newspaper, TV or radio. If members of the public would like to obtain more information on these unsatisfactory products, they could contact CFS individually.
- Presentation format and Dissemination channels
- We will take into account suggestions provided by the members in preparing subsequent reports, and using appropriate dissemination channels.