Compliance update: new food laws in Asia

Dave Hoogakker
March 23, 2023
5 min read
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Compliance update: new food laws in Asia

Is your brand selling in Asia or are you considering moving into Asia?

Either way, it’s critical you keep up with the latest food industry regulations.

To save you hours of research, Hooley Brown has rounded up the most important new food laws in the pacific region:  


Re-evaluation of Functional Ingredients

In Autumn 2022, the South Korean government revised its Health Functional Food Code. Key updates include:

  • New product claim: ginseng can be consumed “for the benefit of liver health”
  • Formula change: saw palmetto fruit extract must have total fatty acids over 80% to prevent cheap edible oils and fats from being mixed in (this clause applies from January 2024)
  • Ingredient removal: aloe whole leaf will be removed from the functional food list in January 2024 following hepatotoxicity being discovered as a side effect of long-term use

View all the code changes

Changes to Functional Food Labelling Standards

In addition to ingredient changes, South Korea has also updated its health functional food labelling standards, effective from February 2023. The new legislation mandates that all functional foods must be labelled with:

  • Product name
  • Business name and locations
  • The health food mark
  • Expiration date and storage instructions
  • Volume or weight
  • Nutrition information
  • Functional information
  • Raw material names and constraints
  • Dose, usage instructions and precautionary statements
  • Consumer safety warnings
  • A statement that the food is not a medicine and should not be used to prevent or treat disease

All warnings should meet the specified standards for that particular health foods.

Read more on South Korea’s functional food labelling changes


Novel Foods Update to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act

Phytosterols, phytostanols and their esters have been added to the list of food additives approved for use in Australia and New Zealand, in the following products:

  • Edible oils – provided total saturated/trans fatty acids do not exceed 28% of the product’s total fatty acid content
  • Breakfast cereals – with a total fibre content no less than 3g per 50g and containing less than 30g/100g sugar and 0.5-2.2g plant sterol equivalents per serving.

Foods that contain added phytosterols and phytostanols may not be used as an ingredient in other foods. These additives are also not permitted in cereal bars and may only conditionally be added to yoghurt and milk.

However, phytosterols and phytostanols can be added to beverages derived from legumes, cereals, nuts and seeds with a calcium content of at least 100mg per 100mL, no more than 0.75g saturated fatty acids per 100ml and a total plant sterol equivalent content of 0.8-2.2g per 250ml.

Sanitarium Health Food Company has gained exclusive approval to use phytosterols and phytostanols for the next 15 months, after which time the exclusivity clause will expire.

Food Produced Using Gene Technology: Update to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991

Officials are also updating schedule 26 of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act, permitting more foods produced using gene technology (GMOs).

The latest update is to include EPA and DHA herbicide tolerant canola line LBFLFK. However, oil derived from LBFLFK canola must not be used as an ingredient in infant formula products.

Learn more about LBFLFK


Additional Microorganisms for Processed Food

Indonesia’s National Agency of Drug and Food Control (NADFC) has declared that processed foods may contain the following probiotic bacteria strains:

  • Bacillus coagulans
  • Bifidobacterium strains: B. breve, B. lactis, B. longum
  • Lactobacillus strains: L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. fermentum, L. paracasei, L. plantarum, L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus, L. delbrueckii
  • Leuconostoc citreum

However, there is a restriction on total colony counts and a ban on their use in PKGK foods. Processed food brands have 30 months to ensure products already available on the market comply with the decree.  


Food Labelling Safety Standards Re-operationalised

Previously announced Food Safety Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulation amendments have been implemented in India with immediate effect. Key changes include:

  • Restrictions on providing RDA values on infant nutrition products
  • Defining minimally processed foods
  • Fortified food labelling
  • More generous tolerance levels for declared nutrient label values
  • Changes to net quantity statements and nutrition information provision on non-retail product containers

Read the labelling standards statement


Guidelines on Preservatives in Kueh Desserts

The Singapore Food Agency is reminding food companies of guidelines on the use of preservatives in kueh desserts. It urges producers to consult the Fourth Schedule of the Food Regulations to check maximum permitted levels of:

  • Sulphur dioxide, sulphurous acid or any of its sodium, potassium or calcium salts
  • Benzoic acid and its sodium and potassium salts
  • Methyl parahydroxybenzoate and its sodium salt
  • Sorbic acid and its sodium, potassium or calcium salts
  • Nitrites of sodium or potassium
  • Nitrates of sodium or potassium
  • Dimethyl dicarbonate

The reminder follows the suspension of nine kueh manufacturers who were found to be improperly using preservatives.

Learn more about kueh manufacturer suspensions


New Guidelines for Labelling of Food/Food Ingredients Obtained Through Biotechnology

The Ministry of Health Malaysia has published new guidelines for labelling food/food ingredients obtained through biotechnology – something it defines as genes derived from animal or plant origin.

Key points include:

  • Product labels must specify “genetically modified [ingredient name]”
  • Any foods produced from GMOs but not containing them must be labelled “produced from genetically modified [ingredient name]”
  • GMO statements must appear on the front of pack (FOP) label or list of ingredients with a FOP label font size of 10 point or larger

Regulations apply to the three main ingredients. However, there are some exemptions, so the new labelling requirements don’t comply to:

  • Any single food ingredient with a GMO content of less than 3%
  • Highly refined foods like boiled sweets, corn syrup, dextrin, honey and sugar
  • Foods from animals fed with genetically modified animal feed
  • Foods produced from fermentation using genetically modified microorganisms that are not present in the final products (e.g. amino acids, vitamins)

Foods produced with GM enzymes e.g. bakery and cheese products

Read the new guidelines in full

Need help with compliance? Hooley Brown’s food law experts keep pace with industry guidelines – they’ll help you adapt your range to changing rules.

Get in touch with Hooley Brown to find out more about our compliance expertise.

This blog post was written in March 2023. Facts were correct at the time of writing.

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