Heavy metal contamination in foods and beverages is not generally visible without professional analysis or testing in the laboratory, and this is especially so for processed items.
Indonesia has been seeing increasing industrial activity such as reservoir development over the past few years, resulting in rising concerns of heavy metal leaching into waterways and the general environment.
With concerns surfacing amongst consumers on social media, the government has been seeking to quell these fears via several methods such as the publishing of a 2021 study by the Center for Applied Nuclear Science and Technology vouching for the safety of staple foods in Jakarta based on Neutron Activation Analysis (NAA) method and a health risk index.
Another recent move was recently made by the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (Badan Pengawas Obat dan Makanan, BPOM), which issued a notice to adjust the limits of heavy metals allowed in processed foods to be enforced over 12 months.
“In order to protect the community from contamination in the food supply and to increase the competitiveness of Indonesian processed food products, heavy metals are a key area of governance focus,” BPOM Head Penny Lukito said via a formal statement.
“BPOM has thus decided to update the heavy metal contamination limits in the Regulation on Requirements for Heavy Metal Contaminants in Processed Food, which will replace the previous regulations that were last amended in 2018.
“Major heavy metals that will be monitored included arsenic, plumbum, cadmium, mercury and tin.”
Multiple processed food product categories including dairy, frozen foods, spreads, confectionary, cereals, bakery goods, edible oils, bottled water, non-alcoholic drinks, alcohol, coffee, tea, snacks and more all have new set heavy metal limits which manufacturers will need to transition to over the next year in order to avoid being hit with penalties.
“All persons and corporations that deal with the production, storage, transportation and/or distribution of processed foods are responsible to meet the criteria and standards of heavy metal limits in the items [within their purview],” added Lukito.
“Both organised and unorganised corporations that handle processed foods will have to comply to this, [and failure] to do so will result in according fines.”
Imported products also subject to testing
These new contamination standards apply not only to locally manufactured products, but also imported ones, which will be subject to the relevant analysis by either local or foreign accredited laboratories.
“All imported processed food products will need to have been tested via validated or verified methods of analysis, and this must be done by suitable accredited laboratories in accordance with the law,” said Lukito.
“If the analysis has been done in a lab at the product’s country of origin, the results must be mutually recognised by the authorised institution and/or accredited laboratories in Indonesia.
“Enforcement of these standards will begin in 2023. All product manufacturers will need to make the transition to meet these before enforcement and monitoring is implemented [in the second quarter].”