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Updates on International measures regarding Food Labeling regulations during the COVID-19 Pandemic

It has been a few months since the world is knowing a global crisis, that involves a battle between nature and sciences.

As it has been a priority to the governments to inhibit the spread of the COVID-19 infection amongst the populations, lots of businesses and legislative activities are being postponed temporarily without totally losing guard especially on Food safety and labeling.

In order to avoid food shortages and lack of food safety as a result to the previous measures, there has been a few announcements aiming to ease the process to food producers and distributors while supplying the nations with daily necessities and minimizing the economic downturns.

The Canadian Food inspection Agency has ‘temporarily suspended some of its low-risk activities’, as stated in their official website. This announcement includes all activities that do not have any immediate impact on the food safety and the flexibility for some labeling requirements for foodservice products labeling used by hotels, restaurants and institutions provided that it will not affect the food safety.

The CFIA is also willing to allow the retail sale of Food products packaged and labeled in Canada based on the U.S or Canadian labeling standards for food service products. The labeling items are detailed in the announcement and includes the format, language and other regulatory requirements. 

Same goes for the United States, where the FDA has been making a few announcements on the subject, including issuing a guidance material to facilitate the process of nutrition labeling for restaurants and food manufacturers to allow them to continue selling certain packaged foods during this pandemic. This guidance will not apply to foods prepared by restaurants.

Other countries are also taking serious measures to face this international crisis, like China where there has been a huge vague of false nutritional/function claims raised on food labeling. Published by the General Administration of Market Supervision on March 27th, some of the advertisements included contents such as “activating autoimmune cells”, “new discoveries fighting against new coronavirus,” and “preventing coronaviruses from invading host respiratory epithelial cells”. Such claims have misled consumers and threatened the Food safety.

The Codex Alimentarius and FAO have also recently announced the postponement of their international meetings 2020 in order to limit travels and gatherings.

Some countries are taking another direction in their preventive measures through banning imports of certain food products/ingredients like wheat; Russia and Ukraine were the first to take in this action.
Japan has also started to make a few announcement promoting a flexible use of the Food Labeling Standards based on the Food labeling act and prioritizing customs clearance for import and export of goods that need to be cleared urgently.

On April the 10th, the Consumer Affairs Agency CAA has issued a new notice, that except for matters that have a significant impact on Food safety, even if there is a discrepancy in the labeling items such as used ingredients, country of origin of ingredients or the nutrition information, its crackdown may be temporally suspended if appropriate information on the ingredients are informed to general consumers through notices in stores, company notices, posts on websites, etc. in a timely manner.

These actions taken in order to guarantee sufficient supplies for the country will be further detailed in our newsletter article.

To conclude, we think that other countries will gradually make flexible announcements to guarantee the Food safety of consumers, avoid any misleading functional/nutritional advertisements, and especially to secure Food supplies for their nations.

Official Links:

Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has temporarily suspended low-risk activities such as certain labelling requirements that have no impact on food safety.

https://inspection.gc.ca/covid-19/cfia-information-for-industry/eng/1584462704366/1584462704709#a6

USA

FDA is issuing this guidance to provide restaurants and food manufacturers with flexibility regarding nutrition labeling so that they can sell certain packaged foods during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guidance does not apply to foods prepared by restaurants.

https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/temporary-policy-regarding-nutrition-labeling-certain-packaged-food-during-covid-19-public-health

China

Regarding the use of misleading claims related to oral spray, tea,TCM, probiotics, carrots and veggies.

http://www.samr.gov.cn/xw/zj/202003/t20200327_313586.html

Codex

The meeting has been postponed.

http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/news-and-events/news-details/en/c/1264803/

Japan

Flexible use of food labeling standards based on the Food Labeling Law due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection.

https://www.caa.go.jp/notice/assets/representation_cms214_200410_1.pdf

June 2020