Completeness of nutrient declarations and the average nutritional composition of pre-packaged foods in Beijing, China

28 August 2019

© 2016 The Authors Increasing consumption of pre-packaged foods is likely an important driver of diet-related diseases in China. From January 2013 it became mandatory to provide a standardised nutrient declaration on pre-packaged foods in China. We collected data on pre-packaged foods from large chain supermarkets in Beijing in 2013, examined the completeness of the nutrient declaration of core required nutrients and summarised the average nutritional composition of 14 different major food groups. We also illustrated the potential use of the data by comparing sodium levels. Photos of 14,279 pre-packaged foods were collected from 16 chain supermarkets in Beijing. Data for 11,489 products were included in the evaluation of nutrient declarations and data for 10,048 in the summary analysis of average nutritional composition. Compliant nutrient declarations were displayed by 87% of products with 88% of foods displaying data for each of energy, protein, total fat, carbohydrate and sodium. Nutrients not required by the Chinese regulation were infrequently reported: saturated fat (12%), trans fat (17%) and sugars (11%). Mean sodium levels were higher in Chinese products compared to UK products for 8 of 11 major food categories, often markedly so (e.g. 1417 mg/100 g vs. 304 mg/100 g for convenience foods). There has been substantial uptake of the recently introduced Chinese nutrition labelling regulation which should help consumers to choose healthier foods. As the comparison against corresponding data about sodium from the United Kingdom shows, the nutrient data can also be used to identify broader opportunities for improvement of the food supply.