16-17 November 2019, Singapore
ASEAN Member States Embark on Harmonising Nutrient Labelling for Pre-packaged Foodstuffs
Scientific research provides more and more information about the relationship between diet and health. It is well established that nutrient deficient diets would lead to malnutrition. But there is increasing evidence that healthy diets would contribute to overall well-being, while unhealthy ones would be important contributing factors to obesity and a number of non-communicable diseases such as various forms of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and others.
Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of that relationship, through education and recommendations provided by the responsible health authorities and information appearing in the press and social media. In that context they are looking for information on the nutritional content of food they buy. Harmonisation of the rules for the provision of nutrition information on the labelling of pre-packaged foods in the ASEAN region would benefit consumers who would find consistent and useful information that enables them to make informed choices suitable for their individual needs. Further, it would provide legal certainty and a level playing field for food business operators (FBOs) and facilitate intra-ASEAN trade in pre-packaged foods.
The ASEAN Prepared Foodstuffs Working Group (PFPWG) had conducted a survey on the existing regulations on nutritional labelling across Member States and decided that there was merit working towards harmonised requirements. It sought the assistance of ARISE Plus to provide technical support to the process for the harmonisation of rules on nutrition labelling in ASEAN. A Workshop of the Prepared Foodstuffs Working Group (PFPWG) was organised in Singapore on 16-17 November 2019 with the participation of food regulatory agency experts from all ASEAN Member States, ASEAN Secretariat and ARISE Plus experts. The workshop included a session with the participation of representatives of Food Industry (ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance) and the International Life Science Institute (ILSI) that has carried out relevant work.
After a fruitful debate the Workshop Participants adopted a Recommendation to the PFPWG that nutrition information should become mandatory for pre-packaged foods and identified the main elements and their form on which such harmonisation should be based. A road map for continued work has been proposed in order that harmonised nutritional labelling requirements for ASEAN may be finalised.