The South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has put a great deal of effort into promoting tools and guidelines meant to help local food firms navigate labelling requirements over the past few years, including a 10-step guidance document released early last year on nutrition labelling.
Now the ministry’s latest endeavour has gone high tech with the development of a specialised bot programme to guide food labelling.
Dubbed the ‘Food Labelling Bot’, this digital programme was launched earlier this month and can be found on the Food Safety Korea website here [Link in Korean]. According to MFDS Director Kim Gang-lip, the main purpose of launching this bot is to help food firms efficiently and conveniently check the accuracy of their food labelling methods.
“The Food Labelling Bot has been introduced in order to solve the difficulties of food firms that find it challenging to apply current food labelling regulations practically on actual product labels – in 2020, we saw some 12,000 inquiries on the food labelling process, [and hope that this will help make things easier],” said Kim via an official statement.
“The bot can currently cater for about 130 food categories [from confectionery to beverages to various processed foods], and once users input all the relevant product information into the platform, a simulation of what the labels should look like will be generated.”
The bot requires mandatory information such as Product Name and Calorie Content for the Main Display Side label, and Manufacturer Name, Expiry Date, Ingredients and so on for the Information Display Side label.
“The Main Display side is the side of the food package that is normally shown to consumers when making purchases and tends to have the trademark brand and logo [so usually the front of the package,” said MFDS.
“Using the Food Labelling Bot will enable users to check their labelling input in line with food labelling regulations as users will be informed of the information required [for each input field], so this will be more convenient and efficient.
“An added advantage is that users will also be able to check how the label information is displayed alongside their label design at the same time.”
That said, MFDS also warned that efforts will continue to be made in the first half of this year to improve the bot and the current version is not yet final, so despite the convenience brought, users are still advised to match the simulated labels and displayed information with the local Food Labelling Standards to be safe.
More on food labelling in South Korea
In addition to the Food Labelling Bot, MFDS also established a Food Labelling FAQ platform on the Food Safety Korea website last year in response to a large influx on consumer concerns regarding food labelling issues.
“We saw that 22.5% of all civil complaints and/or inquiries, some 11,000 cases, were related to food labelling in 2019/2020, so we have set up this FAQ service to increase public accessibility and convenience [to such information],” said MFDS Director Lee Eui-kyung.
“Some of the main topics focused on include ingredients, shelf life, product sales offices, precautions related to products, health functional foods and so on. This will be updated regularly to [reflect topics of public interest].”
The FAQ platform can be found on the Food Safety Korea website here [Link in Korean].