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Majority of Singaporeans unable to understand labelling info

By RJ Whitehead , 18-Mar-2014

Majority of Singaporeans unable to understand labelling info

Even though Singapore’s obesity rate is steadily rising, a recent poll there has shown the majority of its residents do not read or understand the information printed on food packaging. 

This was highlighted in a recent poll commissioned by milk and dairy produce manufacturer Greenfields to look into Singaporean buying habits for basic produce, including dairy and other household items commonly available in supermarkets and grocery shops nationwide. 

Just not sure

Of those polled, 58% said they typically ignored or did not read the information on packaging before purchasing produce, while 52% claimed they were not sure how to verify or validate packaging information before making their purchase.

"It is important that consumers know what they are buying, especially with fundamental foodstuffs such as milk, cheese and bread. Awareness of what goes into each product is the first step in helping us make the healthy choice, but it also enables us to assert our rights as consumers," explained Jan Gert Vistisen, of AustAsia Food, Greenfields’ distributor. 

Food labelling has already been identified as critical in the global fight against obesity and earlier this year America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, launched a significant revamp in the labelling requirements for American food products making them easier to understand. 

Lagging behind

"Singaporean consumers are lagging behind many of their global counterparts in demanding and analysing the information on food products," continued Vistisen.

"Educating our consumers to ensure best practices in food safety and a healthy consumer awareness is still a fundamental challenge in a country where slick advertising too frequently overrules better judgement."

Over three-quarters of the respondents said they were mostly influenced by promotional marketing and advertising materials before purchasing groceries, including dairy products. Of these, 27% said that they were frequently dissatisfied with their purchases as they fell short on the "promise". 

While 73% of dissatisfied consumers complained to store owners and demanded a refund, a huge 84% said they were unaware of the next steps to take to ensure producers refrained from misleading the consumer. 

"The results from this poll provide an insight into the behaviour and attitudes among consumers in Singapore and it is worrying," added Vistisen. "We urge consumers to be more aware and more assertive in protecting their rights and interests."