Turbulent times ahead? Malaysia palm oil faces uncertain 2021 with price, production and policy challenges
The palm oil industry in Malaysia needs to prepare itself for an uncertain year ahead with expected price volatility, production decrease and policy changes in the west, with the government attempting to shift to more value-added products in hopes of providing a boost.
According to data from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC), palm oil prices on a global scale are expected to face a lot of uncertainty in 2021, as there are many key factors that could casue changes, all of which are subject to unpredictable changes.
“In 2021, we expect high price volatility in oils and fats including palm oil due to multiple factors such as the weather, pandemic recovery, economic stimulus and geo-politics - Changes in any of these fundamentals are likely to cause large price oscillations, so the market really needs to be on the lookout this year,” MPOC CEO Datuk Dr Kalyana Sundram said at the recent Palm Oil Trade Fair and Seminar (POTS) 2021 virtual event.
Malaysia halal rules: New QR code launched to recognise foreign certification bodies in wake of meat scandal
The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM) has improved the recognition of foreign halal certification bodies by adding on-pack QR codes and new training, moves that come in the wake of a high-profile meat scandal.
The fake halal meat scandal surfaced in December 2020, where meat importers had allegedly bribed custom officials for 40 years to import and sell frozen meat from non-halal certified sources. The meat including beef, kangaroo and horse meat were imported from countries including China, Ukraine, Brazil, and Argentina, and were mixed and repackaged in Malaysia and sold to consumers.
This had raised fury and concerns since these meats were typically not slaughtered according to Islamic standards, nor sourced from approved stakeholders.
The government said in response to the meat scandal that it would develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to prevent the duplication of halal certificates through the use of digitisation in halal food products.
Hemp regulations set by the Food Safety and Security Authority of India (FSSAI) will be a crucial turning point for the local hemp and cannabis sector, unlocking its potential for use in the ‘next wave’ food and beverage products.
Various large-scale misunderstandings regarding hemp's use as a food item have previously occurred at a national level, such as FSSAI’s granting of licenses for hemp seed products in 2017 being followed by a warning letter to all manufacturers that there were ‘no standards’ for hemp in India at that point, and products were being sold ‘illegally’.
This lack of regulations was acknowledged as a ‘crippling factor’ for the industry and drove hemp sector players such as the Bombay Hemp Company (BOHECO) to work more closely with FSSAI to develop policies and standards.
“We realised that for hemp to thrive as part of the F&B [industry], the regulations needed to work with hemp had to take shape,” BOHECO Co-Founder and Business Development Director Yash Kotak told FoodNavigator-Asia.
New rules cut the mustard: Indian industry lauds government’s blended oil ban to prevent fraud and increase value
The edible oil industry in India has lauded the Food Safety and Standards Authority India (FSSAI)’s enforcement of a ban on blended mustard oils, saying it is crucial to prevent adulteration and drive premiumisation in the category.
FSSAI gazetted the banning of all blended vegetable oils containing mustard oil earlier in 2021, but only recently issued a formal order to the food safety authorities in all states and Union Territories in India.
According to Indian edible oils firm BL Agro, the reasoning behind this ban is the widespread use of mustard oil in adulteration due to its natural colour and pungency.
“A lot of adulteration in the edible oils industry was happening due to the blending of mustard oil with other oils, as its high pungency levels and colouration covered up any traces of poor quality even if the other oil use was very substandard,” BL Agro Managing Director Ashish Khandelwal told FoodNavigator-Asia.
China implemented mandatory traceability requirements for all food products transported via cold chain, including dairy products, fruits and drinks, in an expansion of its efforts to prevent COVID-19 from entering the country via imported foods.
This was first implemented in the capital city of Beijing, where the local Market Supervision Administration and Bureau of Commerce previously already made this traceability requirement mandatory for meat and seafood imported into the country via cold chain, but only recently announced the expansion of this to all frozen food products.
“To further strengthen our management of imported cold-chain transported foods, we have decided to expand the scope of food traceability under the Beijing Cold Chain Food Traceability Platform for such foods,” said the Beijing Market Supervision Administration.
‘Nuclear foods’ progress: Just 15 countries worldwide left still restricting Japanese food from districts stricken by Fukushima disaster
Only 15 countries worldwide are still implementing import restrictions on food items from Japanese districts that were stricken by the Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown disaster in 2011 – but progress with those that remain may be hard to achieve in the short term.
Earlier in 2021, several countries in the Middle East progressively removed all import restrictions previously imposed on foods coming in from Japanese prefectures within the vicinity of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster, deemed to be associated with radioactive ‘nuclear food’.
Egypt abolished all import restrictions in November 2020, followed by Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates in December, and later Israel.
“The Government of Japan welcomes this decision by the Government of Israel [to] remove all regulatory measures to mandate inspections or radioactive material inspection reports for all food products from [Japan],” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) via a formal statement.
Thailand salt tax: Firms failing to reformulate risk increased costs as 2021 implementation expected
The implementation of a salt tax in Thailand may have cost implications for food manufacturers whose reformulation efforts have not yet caught up, according to a local food industry expert.
Thailand has been discussing the implementation of a salt tax since 2018, and the plan would be to levy this on processed packaged food products in the industry, but not yet on condiments, high-sodium seasonings or other ‘everyday staples’.
The country’s Excise Department, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Finance and Bureau of Tax Planning were still in discussion of this as of 2020, but according to Food Science and Technology Association of Thailand (FoSTAT) Chairman Professor Anadi Nitithamyong, the plan has been delayed in favour of caution.
“The salt tax plan is delayed because the authorities would like to be careful in designing and implementing the system [and there were] some impacts by COVID-19,” she told FoodNavigator-Asia.
The Chinese government published consumer guidelines focused on sesame oil, in which consumers were warned to look out for adulterated or blended products over fears of food safety issues.
The guidelines were published by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), calling upon consumers to pay more attention to food labels when making sesame oil purchases.
“Sesame oil is one of the most traditional edible oils used in China which is highly popular with consumers due to its a strong fragrance – these guidelines have been issued in order to ensure that consumers are able to safely purchase this based on scientific principles,” said SAMR.
“It is first important to read the nutritional labels when buying sesame oil – to be called sesame oil, the main ingredient should be sesame and sesame only, not including any other type of oil or vegetable oil. All others should not be labelled as sesame oil."
Sugary drink labelling: Singapore beverage industry calls for more holistic approach as government opens Nutri-Grade consultations
Singapore’s beverage sector asked for increased industry engagement and a more holistic approach to sugar reduction, after the government opened public consultations for its proposed ‘Nutri-Grade’ sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) labelling scheme earlier in the year.
The nutrient label is expected to have four different grades: ‘A’ (dark green), ‘B’ (light green), ‘C’ (yellow) and ‘D’ (red) where Grade A drinks will have the lowest sugar and saturated fat content, whereas Grade D will have the highest.
It will be mandatory for Grade C and D beverages to carry the Nutri-Grade symbol front-of-pack.
China food safety alerts: Warnings and directives for fermented foods, counterfeit foods and beverages issued by government
The Chinese government issued a series of warnings and directives on the consumption of fermented foods, counterfeit foods and beverages on the back of a deadly mass food poisoning event and the rapid rise of food fraud cases in the previous year.
All the warnings and directives were issued by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), with particular emphasis on the safety of fermented foods due to a lethal mass food poisoning case in Heilongjiang province where nine members of a single family died after eating homemade suantangzi (fermented corn noodles).
The cause of the mass food poisoning was determined to be high concentrations of the respiratory toxin bongkrekic acid in the noodles, produced by the bacteria Pseudomonas cocovenenans.
“Recently, there have been cases of food poisoning in several local areas involving the consumption of suantangzi (noodles made from fermented corn flour), shimifen (rice noodles) and Jew’s ear fungus, which have even led to deaths,” said the SAMR.