Cambodia’s Law on Food Safety came into force on June 8, 2022. This law has been widely regarded as a major legal development of the food safety framework in Cambodia, providing new rules, clarifying existing rules, and setting a clear framework for its implementation and enforcement.
In addressing some of the key features of this new law shortly after it was passed in 2022, we remarked that we eagerly await implementing regulations. Since then, various regulations have been adopted, such as two regulations (Sub-Decree No. 13 and Prakas No. 80) on food surveillance, recalls, and seizure. These implementing rules are essential in ensuring that enforcement officers can remove noncompliant and unsafe foods from the market.
Another key aspect of the Law on Food Safety is that it requires Khmer-language labeling on prepackaged food products. There has been a notable increase in the inclusion of Khmer labeling on food products in the market since June 2022, but noncompliance is still considerable, especially for imported foods.
Further interesting labeling rules set by the Law on Food Safety include a requirement to provide nutrition information. This requirement has not yet been widely adopted, with many in the industry highlighting that the details of this labeling requirement are not clear. Indeed, the relevant article of the Law on Food Safety itself only sets the requirement for food products to bear nutrition labeling and does not spell out what detailed information should be provided or in what manner.
However, a prakas (ministerial regulation) adopted months prior to the Law on Food Safety does set out clear guidance on nutrition labeling. As long as this earlier regulation is not replaced or abrogated, and as far as it does not conflict with later laws or regulations, it can be relied upon for guidance.
What are the Main Rules for Nutrition Labeling in Cambodia?
The Prakas on the Nutrition Information Requirements for the Labeling of Prepackaged Food Products (the “Prakas on Nutrition Labeling”) was adopted on February 22, 2022, and took effect on June 1, 2022.
As that was still a week before the promulgation of the Law on Food Safety, nutrition labeling was not yet legally required in Cambodia, so the Prakas on Nutrition Labeling states it is only a voluntary practice. However, with the adoption of the Law on Food Safety shortly after, the previously voluntary practice has become a legal requirement, and all prepackaged food products must now bear nutrition labeling.
Consumer protection has been a major driver of recent legal developments in Cambodia, and this regulation is no exception. A key feature of the regulation is that nutrition information may not be presented in a false, misleading, or deceptive manner, or in a manner that is likely to give consumers an erroneous impression regarding any aspect of the product’s character.
Nutrition information must be truthful and provide accurate information on the nutrition values of the product. The information must also be provided in Khmer language so that Cambodian consumers can easily understand it and will be able to make well-informed purchasing decisions.
The regulation further requires declarations of nutrition information to use internationally standardized metric units and sets out separate rules for solid and liquid foods. It also provides detailed conversion factors for calculating energy values for nutrients and proteins, as well as the conditions for nutrient content claims and comparative claims. Lastly, it sets out guidance on the acceptable tolerance limits, in case of ingredient deviations that may occur during the food manufacturing process.
Interestingly, the regulation also stipulates that the rules for declaring the nutrient reference values for vitamins, minerals, and proteins are based on the Codex Guidelines on Nutrition Labelling (CAC/GL2-1985), therefore following international guidelines.
Overall, the Prakas on Nutrition Labeling is detailed and well-balanced in its meeting of consumer protection demands as well as international standards, ensuring a level playing field for locally-made and imported products. This creates a fair environment for marketplace competition and enables Cambodian consumers to make informed choices.