Policy Picks: Liability and gluten-free rules in India, sugar tax in New Zealand and Singapore and more feature in this policy round-up

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Liability and gluten-free rules in India, sugar tax in New Zealand and Singapore and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks. ©Pixabay
Liability and gluten-free rules in India, sugar tax in New Zealand and Singapore and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks. ©Pixabay

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Liability and gluten-free rules in India, sugar tax in New Zealand and Singapore and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks.

Ensuring accountability: New India rules ensure food brand ambassadors are liable for ‘misleading advertisements’

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) new advertising regulations means that food brands – and any ambassadors who endorse them – are subject to prosecution if their claims are found to be false​.

According to FSSAI: “Any person, including a third party, who advertises or is a party to the publication of any misleading advertisement not complying with these regulations would be penalised with a fine extending up to INR1mn (US$14,100).”

In a separate statement issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) India in Sunday Guardian Live​, these ‘third parties’ will include celebrities and other endorsers.

Misleading free-from labels: Indian regulator FSSAI to set standards for gluten-free claims

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will be coming up with directives on the labelling of gluten-free products​, amid concerns current practices from some manufacturers risk misleading consumers.

“FSSAI is also considering removing of low gluten foods category where foods are specially processed to reduce gluten content to a level 20-100mg/kg and its labelling provisions, as low gluten foods also poses a risk to people with celiac disease. These will be notified soon,”​ an FSSAI official said in response to queries from FoodNavigator-Asia.​  

As for the people who will be involved in the drafting of the directives, the official said there are members who are experts in specific domains in FSSAI’s Scientific Committee and Scientific Panels.

Is sugar tax on or off the table? New Zealand Health Ministry continues deliberation despite government ruling it out

New documentation has highlighted that the New Zealand Ministry of Health is still actively deliberating a sugar tax, even though the government as a whole has already ruled it out​.

According to new information brought to the fore by political party ACT, Health Minister David Clark is still looking at a document prepared by the ministry that shows they are actively investigating it’​.

“A sugar tax would punish the majority of responsible New Zealanders for the sins of an irresponsible minority,”​ said ACT Leader David Seymour in a formal statement.

He described this as ‘disingenuous’​, especially because ‘[Health Minister] David Clark said in September last year that: ‘This Government has ruled out any new taxes in this term of office and so we're not working on that’, referring to a sugar tax’.

‘No more limit’: Philippines import cap removal could see 1.2m MT of rice entering the country

The Philippines’ lifting of a 20-year old rice import cap is likely to result in some 1.2 million metric tons of rice being imported into the country​ in the wake of ongoing shortages and price hikes, the National Food Agency (NFA) has said.

According to numbers on the NFA site, so far some 1.186 million MT worth of rice import applications submitted by 180 applicants are being processed.

The agency has also approved 18 applications, which have received the relevant import permits. These rice traders will be obtaining imports of either 5% or 25% broken white rice from Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Rice imported from other South East Asian countries will be subject to a 35% tariff, but rice form other countries will have to pay a 50% tariff.

‘Too draconian’: Singapore companies demand broader options as sugar tax public consultation draws to a close

As Singapore winds up its public consultation on sugar tax, the majority of participants have demanded sugar-reduction methods that extend more broadly across the industry​ beyond just targeting sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

At a recent such session held by the Ministry of Health (MOH) on January 19, beverage companies appear particularly concerned with the sustainability of sugar tax and its specific targeting of SSBs. Such a focused measure is not expected to have lasting results.

“It will simply shift the consumer to unregulated products like bubble tea, or those that are served fresh in coffee chains,”​ said Deputy CEO of Pokka International Daniel Teo via a Channel NewsAsia ​video,​ citing tobacco taxes and their failure to significantly reduce smoking as an example.

“If you look at the research carefully, 50% of the cause of diabetes is attributed to sugars in food and processed food, so that's a huge other part that needs to be addressed.”

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