Policy priorities: Four need-to-know regulatory developments for food and nutrition industry in Asia

Policymakers across the region are striving to encourage more healthy eating habits, while at the same time promoting food safety and responsible production. Here are four of the most pressing recent developments.

New nutrient claims a boost for Thailand

Thailand is introducing a new health claim framework where the number of nutrient function claims will be expanded. This is to align with changes that happened at the CODEX level along the years, simplify the current framework and in turn, boost the market development of health food.

At present, there are 29 nutrients which could bear nutrient function claims. The new development will see the number of nutrient function claims expand to two to three times more. There is a significant number of functional foods in Thailand’s health food market, however, due to the current regulatory gap, many do not bear functional claims. The new development will be a boost to industry, experts believe.

Singapore to ban partially hydrogenated oils starting 2021

Singapore will ban partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) - a form of trans fats - as an ingredient in all foods, with the new rules expected to come into force from June 2021. The Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the confirmation of a ban on PHOs ‘as an ingredient in all foods, including fats, oils, and pre-packaged foods sold in Singapore, whether manufactured locally or imported’.

The proposal of the ban was made in March, and it will be enforced come June 2021. This timeframe is] to allow the industry time to reformulate their products or find new product sources, said the ministry. Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Home Affairs Amrin Amin said that the move was ‘part of an ongoing initiative to encourage healthier eating among Singaporeans and to improve the quality of Singaporeans’ diets’.

India takes more stringent approach to sports nutrition

Indian regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority India (FSSAI) has announced that all dietary supplements for sports use will be categorised as Foods for Special Dietary Uses (FSDU), which means that manufacturers will need to operate according to FSDU rules.

With the new categorisation, dietary supplements for sportsperson will now need to adhere to the Food, Safety, and Standards Regulations implemented in 2016. This includes regulations pertaining to the essential composition, claims, labelling, permitted use of additives, and the permissible limits of contaminants, toxins and residues in the product.

Coming under FSDU also means that no hormones, steroids, or psychotropic ingredients can be added into supplements for sports use. In addition, these products will be regulated based on the composition of vitamins and minerals, amino acids, ingredients of plants or botanical origin, nutraceuticals, probiotics, and prebiotics.

GMO regulations to be tightened in Thailand

Thailand has drafted a new set of regulations for comments, targeting food and food products containing or consisting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which covers the entire spectrum across plant, microorganism and animal-based foods. The regulations draft was submitted to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) by the Thai Food and Drug Administration (FDA) across two separate notifications, declaring that if passed, these regulations would affect all of regions and countries that partake in trade activities with Thailand.

In both notifications, the Thai FDA said that this measure was being put into place ‘in order to ensure the high level of protection of human health and consumer's concerns while providing fair marketing’. “Prescribed foods containing or produced from GMOs (Genetically Modified Foods or GMFs) have not undergone food safety assessment yet which are prohibited to be produced, imported or sold in the country,” said the Thai FDA via official documentation. “New GMFs other than those [listed] in Annex I must also be evaluated by risk [assessment] agencies recognized by FDA in Thailand.” 

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