New food packaging regulations in China will come into force from 1 January 2013, in an effort to help people make better food choices and reduce risks of chronic non-communicable diseases, according to the country’s Ministry of Health.

China Ministry of Health senior supervision official Su Zhi said that consumers will be able to immediately identify a product’s nutritional structure and ingredients thanks to the regulations, which will provide standard nutritional information on food packaging labels.

"China faces a severe situation of chronic non-communicable diseases, and information on the packages will help consumers avoid the intake of unhealthy elements, such as saturated fat and cholesterol, and increase the ingestion of dietary fibers," Zhi said.

As part of the regulations, the food packaging should contain labels pertaining to content of four kinds of nutritional elements, including protein, fat, carbohydrate and sodium, as well as the calorie count.

The regulations, which were first devised in 2007, will lay down specific rules on labelling other nutritional content, names and functions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 74.3% of countries in the world have food packaging regulations. A transitional period has been established ahead of the new regulations coming into force.

Before 2013, food manufacturers are encouraged to follow the regulations, but after 1 January 2013, the entire food industry is strictly required to carry out the regulations with regard to food packaging.

Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention nutrition expert Yang Yuexin said the Ministry of Health had carried out surveys on people’s recognition of nutritional labelling since 2002.

"We have many statistics on the feasibility of standardizing food packaging," Yuexin added.