Tiny but mighty: Taiwan updates mandatory food labelling regulations down to smallest permitted pack sizes

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Taiwan has mandated specific information on the ‘minimum sales units’ of prepackaged foods, as well as added provisions to allow for the use of electronic labelling. ©Getty Images
Taiwan has mandated specific information on the ‘minimum sales units’ of prepackaged foods, as well as added provisions to allow for the use of electronic labelling. ©Getty Images

Related tags Taiwan Food labelling

Taiwan has updated local food labelling laws to mandate the inclusion of specific information on the ‘minimum sales units’ of prepackaged foods, as well as added provisions to allow for the use of electronic labelling.

Taiwan’s food labelling law is covered by the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation. In new regulations recently announced by the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA), new provisions have recently been made to ensure that the necessary food safety information is made available on all prepackaged foods being sold to local consumers, down to the smallest possible sales units.

“The smallest possible sales unit is also called the ‘minimum sales unit’ and refers to the smallest unit [available for sale to consumers] at the time of sale, taking into consideration the targeted retail packaging set by the manufacturer,”​ said the Taiwan FDA via a formal statement.

“For example, a candy product could have 20 pieces of candy per bag – if the manufacturer specifies that the product would only be sold by ‘bag’ in supermarkets or otherwise directly to consumers and confirms that it is not possible to sell these as individual pieces via any sales channel, then ‘bag’ is the minimum sales unit of the product and previous product labelling rules will apply.

“If however at the very beginning of product design ‘pieces’ have been designated as the smallest possible sales unit and each individual piece is prepackaged separately, these are the items for which these new labelling regulations apply.

“The largest surface area of these items for the new rules to apply must be less than 20cm2​ - if larger than this, previous rules will apply.”

For example, in supermarkets Ritter’s Sport Mini chocolates are usually sold in a pack of nine individual ‘pieces’, each of these with its own packaging and design that will carry the Ritter’s branding. However, certain convenience stores are known to open these packs up and sell each piece individually, which is possible due to the branding and packaging. In this case, each separate Ritter’s Sport Mini chocolate would be considered a ‘minimum sales unit’ - not the 9-pack.

The mandatory information to be included on each minimum sales unit are: Product name, expiry date, name and phone number of the responsible local company, country of origin, origin of raw materials required by regulations, and food safety reminders such as allergens.

“Electronic methods of including this mandatory information such as QR codes have also been approved for usage on each minimum sales unit,”​ said the Taiwan FDA.

“In this case, manufacturers will need to include the product name, expiry date and then the QR code or other electronic method for consumers to access the remaining information. This must be accompanied by a call-to-action statement above or below the electronic code, e.g. ‘Scan here to get product information’ or other equivalent statements.

“Manufacturers can choose either one of these labelling methods to include the mandatory information on the smallest-possible food packages. There is no need to include both.”

Further differentiation

In addition, the FDA also specified that all food items, even if prepackaged, that are either: Unidentifiable as belonging to any specific brand/manufacturer when opened/removed from main package; wrapped in packaging that is not fully sealed; or not individually packed for the purpose of expanding retail scope will not be considered as a minimum sales unit.

“Examples of these include lollipops or chocolates which are wrapped individually in aluminum foil or transparent plastic, [usually to] prevent sticking together or for food safety reasons, but are not meant for individual sales nor are meant to have any information printed on the individual labels,”​ said the agency.

Manufacturers that fail to adhere to these new regulations will face a penalty of between NTD30,000 (US$1,070) and NTD3mn (US$107,072) for offences including failure to include the mandatory information, inclusion of an unreadable or erroneous electronic code, or failure of the electronic code to direct users to the mandatory information.

If the information provided is found to be fake, a higher penalty of between NTD40,000 (US$1,427) and NTD4mn (US$142,762) will be imposed and the products recalled.

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