Asia meets over health claims regulations
Asian regulations are changing to meet an increasingly wealthy demographic that is boosting sales of food supplements and other products in the health and wellness area. There is momentum to harmonise health claims and other regulations across the ten countries that form the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), to promote trade, reduce production costs and educate consumers, in a project similar to that of the European Union. These countries include Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The conference discussed the health and nutrition claim regulatory set-ups in some Asian countries as well as the EU and the US, and noted their usefulness as regulatory guides along with principles of the international food regulations arm of the World Health Organization, Codex Alimentarius. Paths forward Organised by Brussels-based consultancy, European Advisory Services (EAS), the conference featured European food law expert Patrick Coppens and EAS Asia regional director, Dr Daniel Tsi. "The key to success is to fully understand the different national regulations and develop a strategy that is focused on addressing the requirements in a scientific and credible way," Dr Tsi said. "International standards, such as those of Codex Alimentarius, and experience from other parts of the world may be helpful to develop solid and sustainable claims that are applicable and defendable in most countries." Dr Tsi and Coppens presented information on the scientific justification of health claims and looked at ways and means to go about communicating health claims in an environment of changing legal requirements legal and consumer expectations and preferences. Coppens said: "The questions on how to regulate claims are the same in all countries, but the solutions may differ substantially. Those countries that are starting to develop or adapt their claims regulations could find it useful to look at the experiences of countries which have gone through the process already." ASEAN's harmonization project was "of major importance to promote research and innovation in this sector," Dr Tsi said. "The regulatory challenges in the ASEAN region are important, with countries using different definitions, product classifications and regulatory approaches for claims." There are about 500m people within ASEAN's 10 member states. The food supplements market there is worth about €1bn and is growing at about 10 per cent annually. The other ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Burma and Singapore.