Hot Right Now: Japan GMO foods, Sprite's new clear bottles, tighter South Korea food label rules and more trending on social media

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Japan GMO foods, Sprite's new clear bottles, tighter South Korea food label rules and more trending stories on social media feature in this edition of Hot Right Now. ©Getty Images
Japan GMO foods, Sprite's new clear bottles, tighter South Korea food label rules and more trending stories on social media feature in this edition of Hot Right Now. ©Getty Images

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Japan GMO foods, Sprite's new clear bottles, tighter South Korea food label rules and more trending stories on social media feature in this edition of Hot Right Now.

Genome-edited food products to go on sale in Japan, despite no labelling and safety provisions

Food products produced using genome editing technology could go on sale in Japan by the end of the year​ despite no specific labelling rules being in place.

The Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) announced that foods made using the genome editing technology do not require safety inspections, unlike genetically modified foods which must go through toxicity and carcinogenicity tests. Declaration of the technology used is also not required on the product label.

Japan is no stranger to genetically-modified foods, which already follows a set of labelling regulations and safety tests. It can include foods made using recombinant DNA technology, which is the combination of genetic information from different species.

According to Japan’s Food Labeling Standard, foods made using this technology are required to declare ‘genetically modified’ if the main ingredient is derived from recombinant DNA technology such as soybean, corn, potato, rape, cotton seed, alfalfa, sugar beet, and papaya.

On the other hand, genome editing technology allows the cutting and splicing of DNA to edit target genes. This technology was said to dramatically speed up crop development time.

According to Hiroyuki Kawai, CEO of Japan-based consultancy firm Label Bank: “The benefit (of genome editing technology) is shortening the time needed for development compared to the conventional breeding technology and recombinant DNA technology​.”

No green bottles for Sprite anymore: Coca-Cola seeks to increase PET recyclability in SEA

Coca-Cola has opted to increase the recyclability of its Sprite bottles​ in the South East Asian region by converting all new bottles from green to clear.

The firm says this is line with its objectives of increasing PET plastic use in a sustainable manner.

Since Sprite was first launched in the ASEAN region in Philippines back in 1968, it has been retailed in green-coloured bottles, even when sold in its classic glass packaging.

At the recent United Nations environmental programme SEA of Solutions in Bangkok, Coca-Cola emphasised its commitment to recyclability and particularly its interest in highlighting PET as a ‘sustainable solution’.

“A PET bottle actually has a significantly lower carbon footprint than the equivalent amount of aluminium and glass, which gets reduced even further when recycled content is included. A recycled PET bottle has even less of a carbon footprint,”​Coca-Cola Asia Pacific Leads for Communications, Sustainability and Public Affairs Matt Echols told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

‘Clarity is key’: Low and no sugar claims in the spotlight as South Korea tightens regulations

The South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has announced tightened food labelling and advertisement standards​ in a move to strengthen the country’s Food Labelling and Advertising Act, with sugar and other ‘negative content’ claims receiving much focus.

The new regulations were announced via a formal notice on the MFDS website, and was officiated by an MFDS Director who was not named.

“[This notice serves as the] Enforcement Decree of the Korea Food Labelling and Advertising Act, [so as] to protect consumers from improper labelling or advertising, and to promote public health,”​ said the director.

Sugar was a key point of focus in the tightened regulations. ‘Low’ or ‘no’ claims are no longer allowed, except under strict conditions: less than 5g per 100g or less than 2.5g per 100ml of food for ‘low-sugar’ claims, and less than 0.5g per 100g or 100ml of food for ‘no-sugar’ claims.

“[These claims] can be used only when the content of [sugar] is lowered or removed through the manufacturing and processing process in accordance with Korea’s detailed labeling standards of nutritional content,”​ said MFDS.

‘Strictest supervision and penalties’: China introduces strengthened food safety laws

China’s revised regulations of the Food Safety Law​ regulation has been enforced as of December 1, 2019, with a focus on priorities such as enhancing its law enforcement and emphasising the protection of consumers.

The new regulations will tighten the penalty system.

For instance, legal persons, persons in charge, managers, or individuals who were directly responsible will be fined if the entity they worked for was found to intentionally commit a food safety violation.

Xin Li, senior regulatory counsellor at Keller and Heckman LLP Shanghai office told FoodNavigator-Asia​: “The person in charge and possibly others within the company, including the legal representative, may be fined for a company’s food safety violations or fraudulent food advertising​.”

Better late than never? New Zealand government finally responds to industry’s anti-obesity plan

The New Zealand government has finally responded to the country’s Food and Beverage Industry Taskforce​ on Addressing Factors Contributing to Obesity’s report and its list of 51 recommendations.

The taskforce’s report and recommendations had been submitted to the Ministry of Health and Food Safety in December 2018.

Minister of Health Dr David Clark and Minister of Food Safety Damien O’Connor responded to taskforce secretariat representative Katherine Rich in November 2019, making it almost a full year before the taskforce received a response.

In the letter, which FoodNavigator-Asia​ has viewed courtesy of Rich, the ministers apologised for the delay in response and commended the taskforce for its efforts, then expressed support for the ‘principles underlying the report’s recommendations’​.

They also proceeded to urge that 14 of the 51 recommendations be prioritised in alignment with the WHO’s Essential Nutrition Actions workstreams that surround reformulation, nutritional quality of foods, labelling and information, as well as marketing foods and non-alcoholic drinks to children.

According to Rich, many of the 51 recommendations had been set to be implemented in 2019, but given the delay, this would be impossible.

“Many of the recommendations have not yet been taken up due to the delay in the Government responding. The taskforce had recommended 2019 for action for many of them and these will obviously now be pushed back to dates still to be determined,”​ Rich, who is also New Zealand Food and Grocery Council Chief Executive, told us.

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