‘Clear direction’ needed: Thailand drafts new alt-protein policies that ban certain animal-related terms for plant-based products

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

The Thai government has published draft regulations on governance over the alternative proteins industry starting with the plant-based sector. ©Getty Images
The Thai government has published draft regulations on governance over the alternative proteins industry starting with the plant-based sector. ©Getty Images

Related tags Thailand alternative protein plant-based Labelling

The Thai government has published draft regulations on governance over the alternative proteins industry starting with the plant-based sector, and has suggested banning certain animal-related terms but allowing others.

This announcement was made by the Thailand Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Division, which has also established a special project research team to analyse types of standards and criteria that the regulations need to cover for the greatest efficiency.

“At present, alternative protein products are seeing popularity amongst consumers and there are many such items on the market, but the control and supervision of the safety aspect of these in Thailand still has no clear direction,”​ the Thai FDA stated via a formal statement.

“We are embarking on a study of the current production and imports of alternative protein products in the country, and studying the related regulations [to apply this knowledge] in the development of regulations and standards in Thailand.

“This will start with analysis of the plant-based protein sector in Thailand [before moving to] other alternative proteins such as insect-based, cultivated meat or fermentation.”

In addition to the usual product definitions, process safety requirements and ingredient safety standards, the draft has also drawn attention for its labelling and claims requirements, particularly the banning of certain terms associated with traditional meat products.

“First of all, product naming must be specified in the Thai language – additional English language labelling will be allowed, but this must be consistent with the vocabulary used in the Thai language naming,”​ said the agency.

“Additionally, the product will be allowed to use names that correspond o the physical characteristics of the food – such as nuggets, tenders, mince, fillets, patties, sausages, bacon, pepperoni, chunks, roast and so on – but these must be followed by the terms ‘from plants’ or ‘from [Type of main ingredient]’.

“Examples include Plant-based Nuggets, Soybean Nuggets or Burgers made from almonds.

“However, words that will cause consumers confusion or to misunderstand the product to be made from meat will not be allowed on the labels – these include the terms ‘meat’ or ‘meat product’, any terms specifying the type of animal (e.g. beef, pork chicken), any names of a type or breed of meat (e.g. Kurobuta, black chicken), names relating to meat quality grading (e.g. angus, wagyu), as well as the term ‘clean meat’.

The agency also specified that all plant-based products will need to adhere to regulations related to displaying the nutritional values of the food on labels, from energy values to micronutrients as well as any claims relating to ingredients that might affect health either directly or indirectly.

“Manufacturers will not be allowed to use images, symbols or any markings that indicate the product is from animal origin on either the front or back of the packaging label,”​ it said.

“Pictures that showcase the characteristics of the product will be allowed – so images of nuggets or burgers will be allowed, but not a picture of a pig or cow, even if the packaging also carries a ‘meat-free’ label.”

Plant-based dairy regulation

For the plant-based dairy sector, the terms ‘milk’ and ‘milk beverage’ are allowed as long as it is specified that it is from a plant source – e.g. Almond milk, Soy milk mixed with nuts (if contains multiple plant sources) or 7-Grain Plant-Milk Blend (for grain-based drinks).

“However, terms that do not correspond to facts or are deemed ambiguous will not be allowed – for instance, the term ‘dairy-free milk’ is not a real noun and cannot accurately describe plant-based milk alternatives, hence will not be allowed,”​ said the FDA via the draft regulations.

“Manufacturers are also not allowed to use names generally understood to be unique to certain dairy products such as ‘Cheddar’ or ‘Mozzarella’, or phrases that indicate equivalence with conventional dairy products such as ‘yoghurt-style’ or ‘Cheddar-like’.

“Furthermore, any terms related to specific process names for the conventional dairy sector such as ‘whole’ or ‘skimmed’ for milk and ‘mature’ for cheese, will not be allowed.”

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