Fi Asia 2018

Indonesia's diabetes dilemma: Can regulations keep pace with need for innovative functional ingredients?

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Two-thirds of Indonesian consumers are aware of the link between diet and diabetes. ©iStock
Two-thirds of Indonesian consumers are aware of the link between diet and diabetes. ©iStock

Related tags Fi Asia 2018 Indonesia Diabetes Functional ingredients

Indonesia will be home to 16.7 million people with diabetes by 2045 – up from 10.3m last year – but it is far from clear that health claim regulations are keeping pace with the public health challenges faced in the nation.

The International Diabetes Federation, which released the figures, also states that more than half of the number of people living with diabetes will be undiagnosed.

The issue took centre stage at the recent FI Asia show in Jakarta, with several firms highlighting the potential for functional ingredients and reformulation to help tackle the problem.

Trade association Food Industry Asia highlighted the role that could be played by natural sweeteners, while Beneo, along with its partner DPO International, staged a lunch briefing to extol the virtues of its products, including Palatinose, a slow release carbohydrate derived from sugar beet.

 “Obesity and diabetes are huge issues Indonesia and across Asia, but the most effective way to tackle these health issues is for people to healthier foods which contain better ingredients. There is a big opportunity for food manufactures to play a key role in improving the health of Indonesians, as processed and pre-packaged foods often have very high levels of sugar. This plays a key role in causing diabetes,”​ said Christian Philippsen, Managing Director BENEO Asia Pacific.

“The way to make these foods healthier is to reduce the amount of sugar, but an understandable concern is that this will affect how good products taste. However, it is possible to reduce the amount of sugar in these products without compromising on taste or texture by incorporating functional ingredients.”

Trials and tribulations

Despite the opportunity, there is some industry frustration about the health claims regime in Indonesia, which is overseen regulator BPOM.

According to Inneke Fransisca - Group Commercial Director Food Ingredients at distributor DPO international, one of the major challenges comes from BPOM’s requirements for studies to have been conducted in Indonesia, even if sound trials elsewhere have led to approvals been granted by the likes of EFSA and the FDA.

“If every claim has to be supported by a clinical study in Indonesia, billions of rupiahs must be spent,”​ she said.

“I understand why BPOM behaves like it does because it has to protect consumers, but I hope we can find a balance, because otherwise it will mean Indonesia is always the last to get new products.”

According to research conducted by international research organisation ‘FMCG Gurus’, 66% of Indonesian consumers are aware of the link between diet and diabetes and 88% say that they are interested in buying products that can help reduce the risk.

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