April 29, 2011
Labeling Food Products in ASEAN: A Juggling Act
T-AB: Thai-American Business, Journal of the American Chamber of Commerce in Thailand

With the official implementation of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement effective on January 1, 2010, companies now have an expanded opportunity to increase exports in this important and diverse market. In regard to food, however, it should be noted that companies are still required to register their products with the local Food Agencies. Even though harmonization of rules for food products is a stated aim of ASEAN members—similar to the ASEAN Harmonization on Pharmaceutical Registration already in place for pharmaceutical products—harmonized rules have not yet been implemented in this area. How to best label products and formulate health claims has become a real challenge for ASEAN exporters who often seek counsel from local lawyers to help navigate these murky waters. While international standards and regulations exist, such as those of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Codex Alimentarius Commission, some ASEAN countries have not adopted these rules.

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Clemence Gautier
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