On June 8, 2022, the King of Cambodia promulgated the Law on Food Safety by virtue of Royal Kram S/RKM/0622/006, ushering in a new dawn for food safety, consumer protection and investment in the food industry in Cambodia. The law addresses the complete food chain from farm to table and is set to bring Cambodia in line with international food safety standards.
The Law on Food Safety addresses a range of key issues for the food and beverage industry including technical regulations and minimum requirements; import controls; labeling; and inspection, competent authorities, and penalties. The Ministry of Commerce is tasked with coordinating the implementation and enforcement of the law, in cooperation with four other key ministries.
Food Technical Regulations
The law provides a framework for issuing legislative instruments mandating standards (Food Technical Regulations) generally based on existing practices in Cambodia, or on a regional or international level.
The law provides the legal bases for adopting Food Technical Regulations and appoints institutions that may adopt or request to adopt them. We expect many new Food Technical Regulations will be issued in the near future.
Food Requirements and Minimum Food Requirements
The law provides the following minimum requirements for food (Minimum Food Requirements):
- Food must be safe for consumption;
- Food may not be imported, manufactured, processed, or sold in a fraudulent or deceptive manner;
- Consumers must receive “adequate information” as defined in the law, including information on the food’s origin, ingredients, nutritional value, calorific content, user guidelines, and storage guidelines.
- Food must meet the minimum hygiene, packaging, and labelling requirements detailed in the law;
- Food classified as high-risk must be properly registered; and
- Storage of food must meet the safety and quality conditions set by the competent ministries.
Relevant ministries may issue new laws and regulations setting further legal requirements for food (Food Requirements) in accordance with Food Technical Regulations (if extant).
Food producers, processors, or packers must ensure that their products meet all relevant Food Technical Regulations, Minimum Food Requirements, and Food Requirements.
Furthermore, these types of businesses may not produce:
- Food unsafe for consumption;
- Counterfeit food, or food without providing an expiration date;
- Food with packaging and labelling that does not meet Cambodian standards on food labelling;
- Food with packaging that does not identify the manufacturer’s name and date; or
- Food that violates the Law on Food Safety in any way, or other provisions in force, or store such foods.
Similar rules are set for wholesalers and distributors of foods, but with a focus on food storage and transport. Retailers are also subject to a minimum set of rules under the Law on Food Safety that is similar, but with a focus on food storage and sales.
Labelling, Advertising, and Hygiene Requirements
All pre-packaged foods must have labelling that meets all applicable Minimum Food Requirements, Food Requirements, other duly issued laws and regulations on labelling, and Cambodian standards on food labelling.
All food labels must also:
- Provide tracing information;
- Use Khmer language, or at minimum provide information relating to food safety and consumer protection in Khmer (which may be on an affixed Khmer-language sticker if the original label is not in Khmer);
- Identify the “adequate information” discussed above, including nutritional information;
- Not contain any information, images, or trademarks that contradict the required information on the label, or that is confusing or misleading to consumers; and,
- Be legible and visible to the consumer when purchasing (i.e., not be covered by its packaging).
The law prohibits all false, deceptive, and confusing food advertising, with respect to:
- Product expectation;
- Identity, type, nature, place of origin, physical quality, or nutritional quality;
- Quality, ingredient, quantity, date of production;
- Expiry date, usage guidelines, and terms;
- Methods of sales, product availability, and price; and,
- Other warranties or assurances regarding the product.
Other prohibited acts in advertising will be determined by the Ministry of Commerce and other relevant ministries as deemed necessary from time to time.
These provisions are in line with the Law on Consumer Protection, which prohibits similar false, deceptive, and confusing advertising regarding all types of consumer products.
Food hygiene requirements will be further set by implementing regulations, with the Law on Food Safety merely requiring food businesses to meet such requirements when issued.
Importation of Food
Imported foods must meet the Minimum Food Requirements and Food Requirements, and any requirements found in existing legislation.
Importers must provide an authorization certificate for imported foods, issued by the competent authorities of the exporting country, in accordance with risk management principles and pursuant to the applicable laws and relevant regulations of the exporting country.
The list of food products subject to this requirement, the required documentation, and any further importation requirements, will be determined by a sub-decree to be issued at a later date.
Laboratory analysis of imported foods may be required if the authorities deem it necessary.
Imported foods that are not compliant may be subject to:
- Requirements for the importer to change the product to meet the legal requirements, including new labelling, followed by a re-examination; or,
All costs are incurred by the importer in these circumstances.
Food Inspection and Inspectors
This law authorizes food inspectors to inspect the market for compliance. Inspectors may inspect any type of food businesses and have powers to enter premises to do so. If necessary, they may take products for laboratory testing.
Lastly, the law outlines several penalties for violations, including fines and imprisonment. Stiff penalties apply to those who intentionally trade products containing harmful ingredients and chemicals, including up to 15 years imprisonment in cases that result in deaths.
The Law on Food Safety, and the clarity it provides to the food industry and to consumers, is a welcome addition to Cambodia’s consumer protection regime. The adoption of this law is in line with the government’s recent focus on consumer protection, marked by the adoption of the Law on Consumer Protection, the Law on E-Commerce, and implementing regulations, such as the Prakas on Unfair Contract Clauses.
The most impactful immediate change for many food industry companies is that Khmer food labelling is now (at least partially) required, which was not standard practice in the market. Although the previous legal framework did require Khmer labelling, this regulation was either not clear, or was not duly enforced. We expect enforcement efforts to ramp up now that food inspectors have new powers of inspection and enforcement.
The requirement for nutritional values and calories on food labelling is also a substantial change to current practices, which will contribute greatly to the protection of consumers and will provide for a fairer playing field for businesses.
We eagerly await further implementing regulations surrounding imported foods, and especially further clarity on product registration requirements. It appears that registration of all types of pre-packaged food products is still required under existing laws and regulations. However, with the new law only addressing product registration requirements for high-risk products (and potentially imported products), we are keen to see how these registration requirements will be applied.