Update on Singapore Food Legislation
The manufacture, import and sale of food products in Singapore are governed by the Sale of Food Act 2002 and the Food Regulations 2006, administered by its national food safety authority, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA).
The Sale of Food Act 2002 defines food, prohibits the sale of foods which are contaminated, unsafe or unfit for human consumption, as well as prepacked foods which are not properly labelled or labelled in a misleading manner. It also prohibits use of food appliances which are dangerous or injurious to health. The Act also requires food manufacturers in Singapore to be licensed. In the Act, “food” includes drinks, chewing gum and other products of a like nature and use, and articles and substances used as ingredients in the preparation of food or drink or of such products, but does not include:
The Food Regulations 2006 stipulate food safety and specification standards, permitted additives and their maximum limits; tolerable limits for chemical residues; as well as standards for labelling and advertising. The Regulations are formulated based on recommendations by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international food standards body, and food safety authorities of major developed countries, and are in line with international guidelines. AVA reviews the Regulations regularly to ensure that they continue to be up-to-date, in line with international practice and adequate to safeguard public health.
The Food Regulations
The Food Regulations 2006 can be broadly divided into six major parts covering the following areas:
Labelling of prepacked food
Under the Food Regulations 2006, all prepacked food products for sale in Singapore are required to declare the following information in English on their labels:
Food products with limited shelf-life are to be date-marked with the expiry (use-by) date. They include perishable and short shelf-life products, products whose quality may deteriorate over time, products that are susceptible to contamination, and infant food.
Whenever a nutrition claim is made, the label of the food product shall include a nutrition information panel in the form specified in the Twelfth Schedule of the Food Regulations, specifying the energy value, the amounts of protein, carbohydrate, fat and the amount of any other nutrients for which a nutrition claim is made. Nutrition claims refer to representations which suggest or imply that a food has a nutritive property in terms of energy, salt (sodium or potassium), amino acids, carbohydrates, cholesterol, fats, fatty acids, fibre, protein, starch or sugars, or any other nutrients. Nutrition claims, however, do not refer to claims relating to vitamins or minerals.
Food products with claims made on the presence of vitamins and minerals should contain at least one-sixth of the daily allowance as indicated under Table I for the respective vitamin or mineral, for the reference quantity of the food as indicated in the Regulations. When claims on enrichment or fortification of vitamins and minerals are made, the food products shall contain at least 50% of the daily allowance as indicated under Table I for the respective vitamin or mineral, for the reference quantity of the food.
The Food Regulations do not allow claims of the following nature to be made in both food labels and advertisements:
In Singapore, food additives are assessed based on their safety as indicated by the acceptable daily intake (ADI) values established by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), acceptance by CAC, as well as their technological justifications. The maximum permitted levels for approved additives are set based on their dietary intake levels by the local population.
The Food Regulations define the following food additives, and stipulate the permitted ones and their respective maximum permissible levels:
Incidental constituents in food
"Incidental constituents in food" or food contaminants refer to any extraneous substance, toxic substance, pesticide, heavy metal, antibiotic, oestrogen or mycotoxin that is introduced into or on a food in any manner whatsoever, but does not include any of the defined food additives.
Contaminants in food can pose serious health hazards, with either long term or short term effects. To safeguard public health, the Food Regulations stipulate the maximum residue limits for pesticides and the maximum permissible levels for heavy metals, and specifies general microbiological standards, for various foods. The presence of antibiotics in food is strictly prohibited. Food contaminated with mycotoxins is also not allowed to be sold.
The Food Regulations only allow the import and sale of irradiated food products which meet the Codex General Standards for Irradiated Foods, to ensure that the ionising radiation has been conducted in accordance with the Codex Recommended International Code of Practice for the Operation of Radiation Facilities Used for Treatment of Foods. The labels of irradiated food products should clearly indicate that the products have been processed by ionising radiation.
The safety of food containers has important implications on public health. Over the years, AVA has been constantly monitoring the safety of various food containers, including ceramic food wares, kitchen utensils made of various materials and disposable food containers. Safety standards for different food containers are also stipulated under the Regulations.
Food Commodity Standards
To protect consumers’ rights and ensure fair practices in the food trade, the Food Regulations stipulates standards for various food products ranging from flour, bakery and cereal products, meat and meat products, fish and fish products, edible fats and oils, milk and milk products, ice cream, frozen confections and related products, sauces, vinegar and relishes, sugar and sugar products, tea, coffee and cocoa, fruit juices and fruit cordials, jams, non-alcoholic drinks, alcoholic drinks, salts, spices and condiments, flavouring essences or extracts, flavour enhancers to special purpose foods.
Taking cognition of the international move towards providing health advice to consumers in food labels and advertisements so as to promote healthier dietary patterns, AVA is considering a review of the current regulations on the use of health claims in Singapore. AVA is now preparing the ground work to form an advisory committee, which will be tasked to both review and improve on the existing framework, and develop a set of guidelines on the use of health claims, for AVA’s consideration.
As for the use of food additives, the review is conducted regularly. New additives are considered as and when applications are received, or when there are new developments in international standards,
In addition to the Sale of Food Act 2002 and the Food Regulations 2006, the Wholesome Meat and Fish Act 2003 is the specific Act to ensure the safety of meat and fish products,. Manufacture, import, export, transshipment and transportation of these products are regulated under the regulations made under this Act.
Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore. The Food Act 2002, the Food Regulations 2006 and the Wholesome Meat and Fish Act 2003 are available from: http://www.ava.gov.sg/Legislation/ListOfLegislation/