MANILA -- Senator Raffy Tulfo on Thursday pushed for the passage of a measure seeking to mandate the use of a rating system on labels of packaged food products, in addition to the standard nutritional facts label.

In pushing for Senate Bill 1684, or the Health Rating Label Act, Tulfo said placing a Health Rating System that shows the overall nutritional profile of every packed food product will equip Filipinos with a better knowledge on the food they eat.

“The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of health and wellness. This includes a comprehensive knowledge of the food individuals consume. Undeniably, people who maintain a healthy diet will have a lower risk of serious illnesses and enjoy a better quality of life,” he said.

Citing data from the Department of Health (DOH), he noted that the leading cause of death in the Philippines are diseases of the heart, vascular system, and respiratory system, along with malignant cancers and diabetes.

“The use of a rating system on labels of packaged food products, in addition to the standard nutritional facts label, aims to arm Filipinos with the necessary information on the nutritional content of the food they choose to consume on a daily basis and in turn lessen their susceptibility to life-threatening diseases,” said Tulfo, who has earlier raised concerns over the high sodium content of instant noodles and canned sardines.

Under SB 1684, the Health Rating System measures the overall nutritional profile of packaged food products from one (the least nutritious) to five (the most nutritious), which will be calculated based on the total energy or kilojoules (kJ), saturated fat, sodium, sugar content and fiber.

All packaged food products sold in shops like grocery stores shall implement the health rating system, except on fresh unpacked food; condiments; non-nutritive foods; single-ingredient foods not intended to be eaten on their own; alcoholic beverages; formulated products for infants and young children; and food for special medical purposes.

The bill mandates the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to serve as the regulating body to oversee the implementation of this Act.

The manufacturers of packaged food products shall calculate the health rating of their products and submit the rating to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval.

The Department of Health shall create an oversight committee, comprised of representatives from the DOH, Department of Trade and Industry, and the Department of Agriculture to ensure a consistent approach to the effective implementation of the Health Rating System.

Any manufacturer of packaged food products that violates any provision of this Act shall receive the following penalties: first offense, a warning shall be issued by the FDA to the company or manufacturer; on the second offense, a fine of PHP 50,000 per day; and on the third offense, the FDA shall issue an immediate suspension order for the company or manufacturer. (PNA)