Report: New Labeling Rules Encourage Manufacturers to Produce Healthier Snacks

YERUSHALAYIM -
Health Minister Rabbi Yaakov Litzman. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last month the Israel Health Ministry published its prospective rules on simpler and clearer labeling of manufactured food products – with products that are not so healthy getting a red mark, and healthier foods a green one. The system, according to Ministry officials, will make it easier for Israelis to follow a healthier diet. The first stage of the labeling program is set to go into effect next January.

As a result, Israel’s largest food companies, including Osem and Strauss, have been working on developing healthier versions of some of their longest-standing products, according to business daily Globes. Osem has developed healthier versions of its snack foods, including Bissli and Bamba, with less salt and sugar in the ingredient list. A company official told Globes that Osem’s objective was to ensure that at least 70 percent of its products were marked “green” in the Ministry’s new color scheme.

At Strauss, a major producer of cereals, there is a lot less sugar going into its products today, the company told Globes. In addition, the company is a major producer of dairy products, many of which have added sugar. In recent months, Strauss has developed versions of many of its sweet dairy puddings and snacks with non-sugar natural replacements, like Stevia, to ensure that they, too, receive a green mark.

According to the Ministry’s new rules, foods that include any of the following: 300 or more calories per 100-gram (3-ounce) serving; 500 mg of sodium and/or 15 grams of sugar per 100 grams; or 5 grams of saturated fat per 100-gram serving – would get a “red” mark, meaning that consumers should avoid and/or significantly limit their intake. Foods that fit in with recommendations of the Health Ministry, such as having no added sugar, would get a “green” mark.

Labels in Israel (unlike those in the United States) are required to list the amount of added sugar in a product, but the recommendations say that a clearer indication of the sugar level is needed – and instead of just numbers, sugar will be represented with a spoon symbol, with every 4 grams of added sugar per 100-gram serving represented by a spoon. The more spoons, the more sugar – and the more consumers can get educated about the food they are eating, the recommendations say.

The recommendations are similar to labeling used in several countries, including a number in South America and Europe. Sweden, for example, has been using similar labeling for the past 30 years, and 5 years ago the rest of the Scandinavian countries joined in.