Policy Picks: Indonesia on palm oil, Japan on food origin labelling, South Korea on reformulation and more feature in our round-up

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Indonesia on palm oil, Japan on food origin labelling, South Korea on reformulation and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks. ©Getty Images
Indonesia on palm oil, Japan on food origin labelling, South Korea on reformulation and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks. ©Getty Images

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Indonesia on palm oil, Japan on food origin labelling, South Korea on reformulation and more feature in this edition of Policy Picks.

‘Don’t discriminate’: Indonesian palm oil sector urges EU to play fair with environmental ‘Due Diligence’ system

The Indonesian palm oil sector has urged the European Union to ensure that its final regulatory approach to imported commodities does not discriminate against palm oil, warning that efforts to replace it as an ingredient could lead to even ‘bigger problems’ for the environment in the long run.

The European Union (EU) announced its proposal for its Due Diligence system to rank countries from’high risk’ to ‘low risk’ in terms of deforestation earlier this month as part of its anti-deforestation regulations.

Many in the palm oil industry believe that this is a measure to target palm oil in particular amongst all other imported commodities, and have also deemed this a significant risk of developing into a new trade barrier with the EU, which is one of the world’s top importers.

The Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI) in particular has urged the EU to ensure that any final regulations that it decides on need to be ‘non-discriminatory against Indonesia and non-discriminatory against palm oil’​, in addition to urging yet again that a level playing field for certification is provided such that palm oil receives the same treatment as other edible oils such as from rapeseed or soybean.

‘Systematic switch’: Japan urges food manufacturers to finalise raw material origins labelling transition

Japan has urged all local food and beverage brands to ensure that processes are in place to transition to new origin of raw material rules, in order to keep operations running smoothly and avoid ‘disturbances’.

Japan first announced a revision to its Food Labelling Law in September 2017 to include the geographical origins of the main ingredient used to make a food or beverage item on the product’s labels. Due to the massive nationwide undertaking for the implementation of these new labelling standards, the government allowed food firms a considerably long grace period to transition, until March 31 2022.

As the due date for compulsory enforcement is fast approaching, both the local Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) are urging local food firms who have set to complete the transition, or at least have the processes in place to complete the transition by March 31 next year, to pick up the pace or face severe penalties if they prevent the switch from going smoothly.

“All food and beverage companies need to remember that although the transition period is until March 31 2022, there are [logistical] components to this switch such as the ordering [and printing] of packaging materials and labels in accordance with the new labelling standards,”​ MAFF stated via a formal statement.

Encouraging reformulation: South Korea tightens food labelling standards for products with reduced sodium and sugar

South Korea has announced new, tighter standards for food firms looking to label their products as being reduced or lower in sodium or sugar, starting with the nation’s most-consumed food product, ramen.

Previously, South Korea’s criteria for food or beverage products to be labelled as reduced sugar/sodium was for the product to have reduced its sugar/sodium content by over 25% as compared to the average sodium content of the top three products in the market, calculated by market share.

Unfortunately, this method has not been successful in lowering down sugar and sodium levels to the government’s satisfaction, hence a new set of standards have now been issued by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS).

“These have been enacted to encourage food manufacturers to produce foods that are lower in sodium and sugar content, and also promote the reduced consumption of foods high in these what are consumed in large amounts locally, such as ramen,”​ the ministry said.

‘Shackles off’: Japan lays out plant-based labelling rules for meat, dairy, egg and seafood alternatives

Japan has laid out regulations for the labelling of plant-based products, with observers suggesting they are industry-friendly and should not pose problems for brands.

The plant-based industry in Japan has been seeing quite some growth in recent years, with most progress being seen in restaurants experimenting with new menus, bigger conventional meat product manufacturers such as Nippon Ham and Ito Ham launching plant-based alternatives, as well as a few dedicated firms such as NEXT Meats having come into the picture.

However, the government appears unsatisfied with the industry’s rate of progress so far, and has thus implemented new labelling rules to govern the plant-based sector in hopes that this will propel its growth.

“The fact that Japan has until now not discussed the food labelling [of plant-based foods] has been a shackle for corporate business development,”​ Kono Taro, Public Relations Chief of Japan’s ruling faction the Liberal Democratic Party announced.

Shaving off the excess: China mandates food and cosmetics firms to limit excessive packaging and lower prices

China has issued new, stricter packaging regulations covering food and cosmetics products to prevent what has been dubbed the ‘excessive packaging’ phenomenon, citing a need to prevent unnecessary extra costs to consumers and impacts on the environment.

China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) recently launched the new regulations dubbed ‘Requirements of Restricting Excessive Package – Foods and Cosmetics’ in conjunction with the Ministry of Industry.

These regulations are said to apply to 31 categories of food products including grains, edible oils, flavourings, meat-based products, dairy products, beverages, convenience foods, biscuits, canned foods, frozen beverages, snacks, confectionery, tea, alcohol, cocoa-based products and more. For cosmetics, 16 categories of products were also highlighted including liquid-based products for hair care and skin care, lotions, powders, sprays, waxes, toothpastes and more.

“Packaging is important to protect and beautify food and cosmetic products in addition to guiding consumption and increasing value [but]at present, we have found that various food and cosmetics companies on the market are using excessive packaging to pursue high profits, resulting in impacts to the environment and unnecessary wastage,”​ SAMR Deputy Director for Standards and Technology Chen Hongjun said.

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