When in place the regulatory framework for dietary supplements will cover one of the largest integrated markets in the world, bringing together ten ASEAN governments.
The framework will set common rules on additives, contaminants, health claims, maximum levels for vitamins and minerals and standards for good manufacturing processes.
The process began in 2004 and had a 2015 deadline. ASEAN said 90% of its targets were now complete.
Last week senior government officials from across ASEAN and the rest of the world met with executives from the regional and global supplement sector in Singapore to celebrate the approaching end.
Daniel Quek, chairman of the ASEAN Alliance of Health Supplement Associations (AAHSA), said at the meeting: “This week we have been celebrating this significant step towards ASEAN becoming a global powerhouse in this area.
“This […] now creates one of the world’s largest integrated markets estimated at $6bn (€5.5bn) in 2014 and growing rapidly.”
International Alliance Of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) executive director Simon Pettman told NutraIngredients he believed the regulation would continue to allow for innovation.
“In terms of claims, the ASEAN governments have taken a different approach to the EU to ensure that the investment and innovation climate for the supplement and ingredient sector remains strong in the region. Different levels of claims are therefore permitted depending on the evidence available."
The food industry have accused Europe’s nutrition and health claims register (NHCR) of stifling innovation and new product development by applying pharameutical-style regulation to food supplements. In a Vitafoods Europe poll last year 84% of food and nutrition insiders said they believed the NHCR was "devastating" for business.
Challenges lie ahead
Pettman said despite the progress made so far, the main challenges lay ahead in implementing the ASEAN framework - meeting deadlines, ensuring the regulation was commonly applied across the region and squaring certain regulatory aspects that may be significantly different from existing national rules.
“All of these are common in implementation in a regional environment. The way to address them is to ensure adequate communication on why ASEAN agreed an approach in each country and also to engage the broad range of decision makers in each country so that political barriers to implementation can be overcome,” he said.
“IADSA has been partnering with the regional group ASEAN Alliance of Health Supplement Associations (AAHSA) over the past 18 months to meet high level political leaders in all the ASEAN member states to support the technical [and] regulatory process that is underway.”
According to the ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance, the food industry in Southeast Asia employs four million people through 300,000 companies, 95% of which are small and medium enterprises.