Regulatory review: The Top 10 most-read APAC F&B regulation and policy stories in 2022
Palm oil attacks? Why EU’s latest sustainability plans risk alienating Indonesia amid free trade talks
Palm oil industry experts warned earlier this year that the European Union’s (EU) proposed regulations on deforestation carried major risk of upsetting Indonesia amidst free-trade negotiations.
The EU's anti-deforestation regulations in the name of sustainability which basically call for the ban of all commodities produced from deforested land, whether this deforestation was legal, controlled, strategically planned or not would have major impacts on various commodities such as palm oil.
“Deforestation and forest degradation are occurring at an alarming rate, aggravating climate change and the loss of biodiversity,” said the EU via the draft regulations.
Palm oil opportunities? Indonesia’s export ban could mean big winnings for Malaysia – but timing is crucial
Indonesia’s palm oil export ban earlier in 2022 left the door open for Malaysia to swoop in and expand its market share – but a lot very much depended on contract timings and labour viability according to industry experts.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo surprised the palm oil sector – and indeed the entire F&B sector – when he announced a total export ban on all palm oil, both crude and refined/processed, out of the country to tackle local price hikes.
“The Indonesian people’s need for affordable food takes precedence over revenue and economic concerns right now – once domestic needs have been met, I will of course lift the export ban,” Widodo said via a formal statement.
Thai cannabis teething troubles: Authorities vow tough approach to food products amid THC concerns
The Thai authorities stressed that stringent control measures would be enforced as more food and beverage firm looked to use cannabis-derived ingredients upon the lifting of strict regulations governing these earlier this year, amid claims that 30% of products contained higher than permitted tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels.
Thailand became the first country in South East Asia to formally legalise the use of cannabis for food-related purposes in 2022 with the Thai Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) announcing that cannabis and hemp would be delisted from the Category 5 list of narcotics in the Royal Gazette as controlled substances.
This legalised the planting, importing, consumption and also usage of these for use in food products, as long as the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content does not exceed 0.2%.
“The use and distribution of cannabis and hemp will however still be stringently monitored and controlled – we do not intend for these items, particularly if the THC content is over 0.2%, to be used too freely, particularly for recreational purposes,” MOPH said.
Cannabis commotion: Thailand tightens use of hemp and CBD in foods three months after decriminalisation
The Thai government announced regulatory edicts specifying tighter regulatory control over the use of hemp and CBD in food and seasonings, just three months after announcing the decriminalisation of cannabis in the country.
In July 2022, FoodNavigator-Asia reported that Thailand became the first country in South East Asia to formally legalise the use of cannabis for food-related purposes, after the Thai Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) announced that cannabis and hemp were delisted from the Category 5 list of narcotics in the Royal Gazette.
About three months on, MOPH then issued several new edicts regarding the use of cannabis and hemp and cannabis in foods and seasonings, presumably to tighten regulatory control and ensure that these would not be misused for recreational purposes.
“In food products, THC content must not exceed 1.6mg per unit of the product content, and overall cannabidiol (CBD) must not exceed 1.41mg per unit of the product content; whereas in all food seasonings, THC content must not exceed 0.0032% by weight and the overall CBD content must not exceed 0.0028% by weight,” Deputy Government Spokeswoman Traisuree Traisoranakul said.
Philippines trans-fat ban: Policy chiefs issue new guidelines and ban on-pack claims ahead of 2023 changes
Policy chiefs in the Philippines circulated guidelines for food firms to eliminate the use of Trans-Fatty Acids (TFA) in pre-packaged processed foods by 2023, including prohibiting the use of on-pack claims such as ‘TFA-free’.
It came after the country launched a bill in 2020 and the Department of Health issued an administrative order last June under its “National Policy on the Elimination of Industrially-Produced Trans-Fatty Acids for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases”.
This banned industrially-produced TFA from pre-packaged processed food products, with health officials citing the 'alarming global and local magnitude of the problem involving Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD)'.
The Philippines Food and Drug Administration further highlighted earlier this year that: “Pre-packaged processed food products for human consumption, commercial sale or use shall not contain PHO whether as a single ingredient or raw material, or as an ingredient to any pre-packaged processed food product.”
Clear and present labels: Thailand mandates GMO declarations in latest food labelling regulatory update
The Thai government announced several updates to the national food labelling regulations earlier this year with food firms required to declare any use of genetically modified ingredients on food labels.
Previously, Thailand did not have specific regulations in place to govern the labelling of genetically modified ingredients on food product packages, but the Thai Ministry of Public Health announced that all food manufacturers handling GM products would now have to declare their use of these on their labels.
“The clear statement ‘genetically modified’ must be declared alongside the food name on the label if the product contains only one ingredient, and if it uses multiple such ingredients these must also be clearly declared accordingly alongside each ingredient,” Thailand Deputy Minister of Public Health Dr Satit Pitutecha said.
Enforcement action: South Korea cracks down on use of butterfly pea flowers in foods and beverages
South Korea cracked down on the use of butterfly pea flowers in foods and beverages earlier in 2022, stating that consumption of the colourant is unsafe due to a lack of food safety data.
The South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) conducted a crackdown on food firms and establishments using butterfly pea flowers as an edible ingredient for food and drinks, saying this was in violation of the national Food Safety and Sanitation Act.
“Butterfly pea flowers have not been approved for use in food under local regulations as its safety has not been proven – at present, it is mainly used for ornamental purposes and for colour extraction,” MFDS Minister Kim Kang-lip said.
‘Unparalleled growth and innovation’: Indian hemp industry ready for lift-off as regulatory landscape improves
India’s hemp industry predicted a wave of product innovation, from protein bars to flavoured powders and snacks, in the wake of regulatory advances that saw hemp seed, oil and flour products classed as food for the first time.
Although hemp-based food products have been present in the market in India for several years, all products were previously regulated under the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa-Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) in the country as the local food authority Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had not set any standards for hemp locally.
This situation took a positive turn late in 2021 when FSSAI finally issued a gazette notification to include regulations governing hemp seeds and seed products under the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Fifth Amendment Regulations, 2021, marking the first time hemp products were recognised as food in the country and opening up the doors for hemp product innovation from 2022 and beyond.
“[Hemp] seeds, hemp seed oil and hemp seed flour shall be sold as food or used as an ingredient in a food for sale subject to conforming to [FSSAI-defined] standards, [including adhering to specified] THC and cannabidiol (CBD) limits,” said FSSAI via the notification.
‘Economic sabotage’: Philippines sugar dispute grinds on as producers demand import plan is scrapped
Controversy was the name of the game surrounding the Philippines’ Sugar Regulatory Administration’s (SRA) efforts to import 200,000 metric tonnes of premium refined sugar into the country earlier this year, with the domestic industry securing a temporary halt to the measures.
Following a civil case against the order brought by United Sugar Producers Federation (UNIFED) member, the Rural Sugar Planters Association Inc., the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Sagay City, Negros Occidental issued a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking the import just days after the SRA approved it.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, deputy minority leader in the House of Representatives, has called on the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to look into the Duterte administration’s signing of Sugar Order No. 3.
Zarate issued a statement that this was clearly done to “favour someone” and was “not only irregular but also economic sabotage”, especially in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and how the Philippines was “struggling to uplift” its own economy.
Food label fight: Australian plant-based industry lambasts ‘restrictive regulations’ proposal
Australia’s plant-based sector saw red over recommendations from senators earlier this year to restrict the use of traditional animal product terms on packs, with potential further policy woes for firms in the cultured meat space.
Regulations to govern plant-based product labelling have been a major source of debate between the plant-based sector and traditional animal-based agricultural product industries in Australia for several years now, with Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud even hosted roundtable-style discussions since back in 2020.
The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs & Transport Committee’s Inquiry into plant-based product labelling was formally launched in 2021, and industry sentiment then was that current food labels for plant-based products were already found to be fit-for-purpose.
However, the recommendations made by the inquiry were less-than-satisfactory for the plant-based sector, with many of these recommending tougher mandatory labelling governance for the sector and the possible ban of using traditional animal-based product labels such as ‘meat’, ‘sausage’ or ‘steak’.