Philippine Food Standards: Development and Recent Changes
The Bureau of Product Standards (BPS) is the national body of the Philippines which formulates Philippine National Standards for food and other categories including 1) building, construction and transport products, 2) electrical and electronic products, and 3) chemical and consumer products. The BPS is a governmental agency under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Its mandate is to develop, implement and coordinate standardisation activities in the Philippines. Aside from standards development, BPS also ensures the implementation and promotion of these standards to raise the quality and global competitiveness of Philippine products and to protect the interests of consumers and businesses.
Working closely with DTI – BPS are two other departments, the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture. These three agencies, by virtue of the 1992 Republic Act 7394, otherwise known as the Consumer Act of the Philippines, are mandated for the development of standards for consumer products. Specific to the area of food standardisation, the Department of Health (DOH) through its Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) establishes standards for processed food. The Department of Agriculture (DA) – Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards (BAFPS) develops standards for agriculture and agriculture-related products including fruits and vegetables and grains. The Department of Trade and Industry – Bureau of Product Standards is responsible for other related food standards not covered by both DOH and DA.
Recognising the importance and benefits of international standards to Philippine trade and industrial development, the DTI–BPS, DOH–BFAD and DA–BAFPS participate in international and regional standardisation activities. With this, conformance and/or alignment of national standards to international standards is strengthened. Among the international standardisation initiatives that the Philippines participates in are those being lead by the International Organization for Standardization, Codex Alimentarius Commission, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), ASEAN Consultative Committees on Standards and Quality (ACCSQ) and Asian European Meeting. A National Codex Committee, chaired by the Director of the Food Development Center of the Department of Agriculture, represents the country for Codex meetings on Standards for Food Additives and Contaminants.
Food standards are published as Philippine National Standards following a standard documentation format aligned with the ISO documentation format.
Technical Committees (TC) and Sub-Committees (SC) are organised by virtue of special orders which identifies members and experts that shall be involved with the formulation of standards. These committees conduct technical reviews and public consultations before a standard is finalised.
Approving of Standards
Standards are prepared by the Technical Committees and Sub-commitees of BPS, BFAD and BAFPS. Approval for adoption is by the Bureau of Product Standards.
Updating of Standards
The revision of an existing standard is undertaken when there are related technological advances in the industry or when there is a need to harmonise with Codex standards and other internationally established standards.
Strategies and Vision
In 2004, the Philippine Standardization Strategy was formulated by the Bureau of Product Standards to ensure clarity of directions for a more focused and coordinated approach to the activities engaged in by standardisation stakeholders as well as to upcoming programs and activities that still need to be undertaken. In the strategy statement, the identified Key Results Areas in the national standardisation initiatives programs are as follows:
In recent years, the Philippines has implemented changes in its food standardisation landscape. The harmonisation with international standards is a stated direction at the national level to enhance global competitiveness of Philippine products and to conform to WTO agreements. There were initiatives taken for additional control over product labeling and marketing. All these were put into place to provide greater assurance of quality and food safety to all consumers. Among the turns made in food standardisation in the Philippines, those which created significant impacts are discussed below.
Nutrition and Health Claims in Food Package Labels
In January 2007, the BFAD issued Bureau Circular 2007-02 titled “Guidelines in the Use of Nutrition and Health Claims” adopting Codex Alimentarius Commission CAC/GL 23-1997, Rev. 1-2004, “Guidelines on the Use of Nutrition and Health Claims”. At the onset of the adoption, the Bureau did not approve numerous applications to product registrations due to lack of scientific substantiation of claims, particularly health claims. Today, the food industry continues to understand the principles behind the guidelines and identifies / executes means to substantiate claims including the use of published literature and the conduct of product clinical studies.
Food LabelingEarly in 2008 the DTI, in an addendum to the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Consumer Act of the Philippines, issued DAO 01 s. 2008 requiring all manufacturers and importers of consumer products sold in the Philippines, including food, to specify in the labels its consumer complaint desk address. Prior to this, the only mandatory information to be indicated in food product labels were the name of the food, list of ingredients, net contents, name and address of manufacturer and lot identification. The Nutrition Information Table is required whenever there are nutrition or health claims. This new requirement will enhance consumer protection and manufacturer responsiveness to customer complaints.
The DTI – Bureau of Product Standards issued PNS 2067: 2008 titled “Halal Foods – General Guidelines” to harmonise all existing national and international guidelines for halal certification and halal food trading. The major inclusions in this standard, which elicited varying industry positions, are the following:
The standard also presented, as an annex to the guideline, the perspective on the use of hormones and antibiotics in animals, but did not specify whether it is acceptable or not acceptable.
Genetically Modified Organisms
Stakeholders are taking varying views on the use and application of GMO/LMO (Living Modified Organisms). With the issuance of the new Halal PNS, new discussions among the different interested parties are on-going on the issue of GMO labeling.
In October 2006, BFAD through Bureau Circular 2006-016 titled “Updated List of Food Additives” adopted the Codex “General Standards for Food Additives”. Prior to this, BFAD established a comparatively shorter list of food additives for use in food products manufactured domestically or imported and sold in the Philippines.
Infant Formula, Breast Milk Substitutes and Other Related Products
In January 2008, the Department of Health (DOH) released Department Circular # 2008-006. This new issuance has put in-place specific requirements for the labeling and marketing of infant formula and milk substitutes. This issuance came in the midst of consumer actions calling for control over the aggressive marketing of these products. This development has reinforced the implementation of the 1986 issued Executive Order # 51, otherwise known as the “Milk Code”.
Further ReadingFurther details of government documents are available from: www.bfad.gov.ph, www.bps.dti.gov.ph and www.bafps.da.gov.ph
Josephine Del Mundo is Training Systems and Regulations Manager of Universal Robina Corporation, CFC Administration Building, E. Rodriguez Jr Avenue, Pasig City, Philippines 1600, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; Pamela Forshage is Vice President of the Philippine Association of Food Technologists, Inc. (PAFT) and Director of Technology, Branded Consumer Foods Group, Universal Robina Corporation, E-mail: email@example.com; Michelle Ocampo is President of the Philippine Association of Food Technologists (firstname.lastname@example.org ) and Vice-President for Sales and Marketing, Glenwood Technologies International. Inc., 24 PA Eisenhower Condominium, # 7 Eisenhower Street, San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines 1504, E-mail: email@example.com