x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Poor food labelling puts UAE shoppers at risk

The Emirates may have to demand more from sellers if consumers feel they cannot make informed decisions.

Perhaps it contains milk; perhaps it doesn't. Perhaps it is fat-free; perhaps it isn't. Perhaps it will send you to the floor in a fit of hive-riddled convulsions, but how would you know? 

Many food items in the UAE are sloppily labelled, as The National reports today, and it is causing not a little bit of head scratching in the UAE's shopping aisles. Whether it's allergens, calorie count or ingredients, the Arabic-language sticker slapped onto the side of many food items often confounds foreigners, and doesn't provide enough information to native speakers.

The solution? Well, there are many. Some countries enforce multi-lingual labelling regulation on imports, especially within the European Union. 

Large companies such as the US brand Kellogg's or the conglomerate L'Oreal also employ multilingual labelling, where, in deference to global demand, one can read instructions on how to boil rice or dye one's hair in Dutch, Thai, Russian or Hindi. 

While the UAE has attempted to strike a balance between consumer information and import regulations, it may have to demand more from sellers if consumers feel they can't make informed decisions - especially if that information involves scratching at the label to peer at what's underneath.

Symmetrical market information that ain't.