Policy Picks: Regulatory updates from Japan, New Zealand, India and more feature in our round-up

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Regulatory updates from Japan, New Zealand, India and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks. ©Getty Images
Regulatory updates from Japan, New Zealand, India and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks. ©Getty Images

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Regulatory updates from Japan, New Zealand, India and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks.

‘Big gap’ to address: Ajinomoto and Meiji call for harmonised and collaborative food regulations to tackle malnutrition

Japanese F&B giants Ajinomoto and Meiji have called for more harmonised food regulations planned in collaboration with the food industry address local malnutrition problems as well as ‘big gaps’ with international standards.

Both Ajinomoto and Meiji were amongst the world’s Top 25 food and beverage companies analysed by the Access to Nutrition Initiative (ATNI) in the latest Global Access to Nutrition Index 2021.

Both firms expressed pride about the results, but both also stressed that for more significant progress to be made in Japan, what is needed moving forward is a more harmonized and collaborative approach between all industry stakeholders including the government.

“Meiji has been continuously working to improve the nutrition in our food range, but we are aware that this improvement is not yet sufficient [to solve all the malnutrition problems],”​ said Meiji Chief Sustainability Officer Jun Furuta.

“In Japan, there are no doubt different regulatory challenges and expectations over governance and nutritional labelling – e.g. ATNI recommends FOP labelling, but this is not part of the regulations in Japan – and there are different laws in different regions currently too. So though we’re not suggesting everything exactly the same, there needs to be some level of harmonisation, both at a national and global level.”

‘Conflict of interest’: NZ food and grocery sector calls for restrictions on private label products

The New Zealand food and grocery industry has called for more restrictions to be placed on supermarkets’ private label products given the highly concentrated grocery retail market in the country, citing a potential ‘conflict of interest’ which could result in ‘harmful outcomes’ for consumers.

Since November 2020, New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has been conducting a market study into the nation’s retail grocery sector, which has the most highly concentrated supermarket ownership in the world with over 95% of the market controlled by two retail teams. Its first draft report was published in July 2021, with submissions and comments still being accepted.

In the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council’s (NZFGC)  latest submissions to the Commerce Commission regarding the retail market study – a comments document and a report dubbed Private Labels, Buyer Power and Remedies in the NZ Grocery Sector​ with research by Castalia, both of which FoodNavigator-Asia ​has viewed courtesy of NZFGC Chief Executive Katherine Rich - the council highlighted the impacts of private label products on the market, stressing that too much of these could have a ‘net negative’ impact for consumers in the long run.

“NZFGC believes that the Commission’s draft report is a meticulous and accurate reflection of the grocery market, and [are supportive of its findings and recommendations] – We just think that [there needs to be a closer review] of its work on private label and retailers preferencing their own products,”​ Rich said.

‘Long-drawn’ battle ahead: Indian plant-based dairy firms take legal recourse to prevent product delisting

Indian plant-based dairy firms have taken to the courts to prevent their products from being delisted over the use of dairy terms, and are warning the battle will be long despite achieving an initial legal reprieve.

Earlier this year, the plant-based industry in India was hit by an order by the Food Safety and Standards Authority India (FSSAI) to online platforms to delist all plant-based products using dairy terms, which the authority had confirmed would also apply to products being sold offline.

Following this order, five local companies – Hershey India, Drums Food International, Veganarke Enterprises, Rakyan Beverages and Istore Direct Trading - have opted to fight back from a legal standpoint, and successfully managed to get a stay on the orders to prevent products being forcibly delisted.

All five firms manufacture plant-based dairy products such as almond milk and oat milk.

China proposes to speed up FSMPs assessment process, prioritise rare disease related products

China has proposed new changes to its management of Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMPs), such as prioritising the assessment and registration of products catered to patients suffering from rare diseases, as well as reducing the duration of product assessment.

The country’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) announced the list of proposed changes on October 18, which is now open for public feedback until November 18.

The regulator has observed that more improvements could be made to the product registration and assessment processes, as well as the legal liability of parties registering the products.

“[We will] need to further strengthen the enterprises’ product innovation, manufacturing, testing and other key areas relevant to [FSMPs] product registration process.

“[We will] raise the technical assessment standards, improve the process of product registration, implement the strictest regulations and demand accountability, to lead high quality development in the FSMPs industry,”​ the SAMR said.

Shakeup in ashwagandha sector? India’s AYUSH caution against use of leaves in supplements

India’s Ministry of AYUSH has released a statement that advised against the use of ashwagandha leaves in Ayurveda and products for therapeutic purposes.

The ministry said this was because it has not been reported in the classical Ayurveda texts that the leaves of ashwagandha (withania somnifera) ​were used.

“No substantial evidence and literature is available to endorse the efficacy of crude drug or extract of Withania somnifera leaves. Considering this, it would not be appropriate to consider the Withania somnifera leaves as ASU medicines at this stage,” ​AYUSH said, adding that it should also not be used in food supplements in the name of ASU drugs.

Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, ​Sandeep Gupta, founder and CEO at India’s Expert Nutraceutical Advocacy Council (ENAC), said the announcement would affect the industry.

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