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Vietnam Holds Public Consultation on Various Changes to Food Safety Requirements

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September 9, 2021Chanyanis UtiskulBlog

Vietnam proposed changes to several food safety-related requirements on 13 August 2021. The Vietnam Food Administration (VFA), under the Ministry of Health (MOH), notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) through Notification No. G/SPS/N/VNM/123 of the (Draft) Circular on Amending, Supplementing, and Repealing a Number of Legal Documents on Food Safety.
The consultation period for WTO members will be closed on 12 October 2021. For domestic comments, the final date is 10 October 2021.

Verisk 3E Review 

The proposed regulation (Draft Circular) aims to update food safety-related requirements in Vietnam, which are currently enforced through several MOH regulations (MOH Circulars). Included in the 2021 proposal are revisions of provisions concerning the use of food additive, flavoring, and contaminant requirements.

Changes to Food Additive Requirements

The Draft Circular aims to revise the Ministry of Health’s Circular No. 24 of 2019 on Guiding the Management of Food Additives, dated 30 August 2019 (Circular 24/2019/TT-BYT), which governs the requirements on the use of food additives in Vietnam. Among the proposed changes is a new provision to automatically align Vietnamese requirements on food additives to the latest internally adopted standards—the Codex General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA). The newly proposed provision, Article 5 Clause 5, specifies that Vietnam’s list of permitted food additives and their maximum use levels shall be automatically updated once the updated changes of Codex GSFA are available through the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website.

Under Circular 24/2019/TT-BYT, Vietnam has issued two types of permitted food additives and their maximum use levels. Apart from those that are aligned with the international standards (Appendix 2A), there exists the "national list" of additional food additives that are not prescribed by the Codex GSFA standards. The list appeared in Appendix 2B of Circular 24/2019/TT-BYT and applies specifically to certain products such as seasoning and dairy products. The above-mentioned proposed changes apply to the following lists, except Appendix 2B.

  • List of food additives approved for use (Appendix 1)
  • Maximum use level of food additives in food (Appendix 2A)
  • Maximum use level of food additives in food not specified in Codex STAN 192-1995 (2018) (Appendix 2B)
  • List of additives permitted for use at GMP (good manufacturing practice) (Appendix 3)
  • Classification and description of food groups using food additives (Appendix 4)

In addition, Article 3 of Circular 24/2019/TT-BYT would revise the definitions of “mixed-food additives with new use” and “flavoring.” Permitted flavorings in Vietnam currently include those that are “determined as safe” under the Joint FAO/WHO (World Health Organization) Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The 2021 proposed regulation seeks to add the acceptance of the United States’ Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association generally recognized as safe (FEMA-GRAS) and European Union’s List of Flavoring.

The Draft Circular also proposed adding the maximum levels for food additives that have not been specified in Codex Stan 192-1995. However, the specified maximum use level has not been included in the proposal, as the MOH is still waiting for the opinion of the Consulting Board for the MOH on this matter. Finally, the proposed changes include an update to the list of food products, food additives, food processing aids, packaging materials, and food containers that are identified with harmonized system (HS) codes according to the provisions of the list of goods exported and imported from Vietnam stipulated in Circular 05/2018/TT-BYT.

Changes to Food Contaminant Requirements

The Draft Circular proposes changes to the requirements of food contaminants (i.e. metal and mycotoxin) in food which are regulated under the National Technical Regulation QCVN 8-1:2011/BYT and MOH Circular 02/2011/TT-BYT Issuance of National Technical Regulations on Chemical Contamination in Food. Among the changes, the draft decree proposes a new note to exclude infant formula and food for special medical purposes from the scope of the regulations as they are being individually regulated.

Other Changes

One other change involves the requirements of GMP for food supplements. Under the current regulation of Circular 18/2019/TT-BYT, Vietnamese authorities do not accept facilities that have GMP for medicinal products to produce food supplements. This creates a technical barrier for the import of food supplements because there is no GMP for food supplement requirements in certain importing countries (e.g., European Union).

Another change involves the management of food supplements stipulated in Circular 43/2014/TT/BYT, such as maximum levels and claims of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in food supplements.

For the full list of regulations affected by these changes, please see the WTO notification via the source link.

Verisk 3E Analysis 

This Draft Circular signals the Vietnamese Government’s effort to modernize the food regulatory system. Businesses that manufacture, import, and trade in food additives, food flavors, and food products including food flavoring and processing aids should consult the detailed proposed requirements of the Draft Circular as well as other relevant regulations in order to avoid noncompliance.

Among the many requirements, food products imported or sold in Vietnam must comply with the provisions of Law No. 55/2010/QH, Law on Food Safety and Government Decree No.15/2018/ND-CP, Guidance on the Implementation of a Few Articles of the Food Safety Law. Food additives used in food production must be recognized or confirmed to have met the national requirements on permitted food additives and maximum limits under MOH Circular 24/2019/TT-BYT. In addition, companies manufacturing and distributing food additives must comply with the requirement of a “product declaration" before using and/or placing products on the market. The procedure and implementation of this process are detailed in Government Decree No.15/2018/ND-CP.