The Myanmar Food and Drug Board of Authority (“FDA“) under the State Administration Council (“SAC”) has issued a notification on labeling standards for pre-packaged foods, called “Labeling Order for Pre-packaged Foods” (“Order“). The Order was followed by two directives detailing the criteria for edibles that do not require a date of production and for a revised classification of edible products (“Directives“). The FDA has also issued a draft guideline on nutrition labeling and nutrition claims for pre-packaged food (“Draft Guideline“). These regulations issued under National Food Law (“Law“) apply to all pre-packaged food and catering services that intend to inform consumers on the quality, potential risks and hygiene of foods for safe consumption.
In the present alert, DFDL draws the attention to some of the salient features of the regulations.
Principles of Labeling
Some of the broad principles to be followed to label pre-packaged foods:
- Labeling shall not include any misleading descriptions;
- Names of foods are required to be mentioned, and shall not be used as determining brands and trademarks in its place. (Hypothetically, the package of cream-filled cookies shall state as such and not use a more popularized branding, like Oreos); and
- Particulars expressly not permitted by any Myanmar laws or government departments may not be used for labeling.
- Labels shall be firmly attached with displayed foods, and if packed with another wrapper, the description must be seen through the wrapper;
- The name of the food and net weight shall be described on the display surface;
- The language used on the label shall be either Myanmar language or any other language acceptable for consumers, and labels can be bilingual (e.g. Myanmar or English, or both);
Mandatory Labeling of Pre-packaged Foods
Particulars to be included on labels of pre-packaged foods in line with the Myanmar standards or CODEX standards are:
- Name of the food;
- List of ingredients;
- Net contents, quantity and drained weight;
- Name and address;
- Country of origin;
- Lot identification;
- Date marking; and
- Instructions for use.
There are further guidelines provided under the Order on labeling standards, some of which are:
1. Some instructions on how to describe food names:
- The food’s name on the label shall indicate its true nature and not be generic (e.g. oil should be explicitly named as palm oil or peanut oil) unless specified in Myanmar standards or CODEX standards.
- For mixed and processed food, the commonly used name (e.g. Halawa) should be emphasized by mentioning primary ingredients (e.g. plum jam, pounded fish paste). If it’s a mixture of food of the same/similar nature, the generic name should be modified by terms such as “variety” or “mix” (e.g. fries-variety or cooking oil-mix).
- While using invented names, trademarks, or brand names, the name of the food must be described next to or in conjunction with such invented names, trademarks, or brand names.
- If additional words are used to describe a food item, it should not be misleading or confusing (e.g. naming normal fried noodles as flying noodles or scrambled egg as David fry).
2. Some instructions on how to describe ingredients:
- Food ingredients on the label should be titled “Ingredients,” detailing a list in descending order of their ingoing weight at the time of manufacturing.
- If an ingredient is a mixture, its compound shall be declared immediately after the name opens and close parenthesis “( )” in descending order of their proportions.
- Food ingredients that may cause allergies to consumers shall be declared in bold letters or next to a food allergen notice provided close to an ingredient list (e.g. Milk and milk products (including lactose)).
- Pork fat, pork lard and beef fat, etc. shall be declared by their specific names only.
3. Some instructions on how to describe net contents, quantity and drained weight:
- The net contents shall be declared in the metric system (“Système International” units) and as an average number at the time of packing. Local measurements may also be declared together.
- If the food is in liquid form, net contents shall be declared in volume.
- If the food is viscous, net contents shall be declared in weight or volume.
- For larger packs containing retail packets, the quantity of packets, net contents of each packet, and total contents, shall be declared.
- Food packed in a liquid medium shall carry a declaration in the metric system of the drained weight of the food. Liquid medium means water, aqueous solutions of sugar and salt, fruit and vegetable juices, etc., either singly or in combination.
4. Some instructions on how to declare name, address, and country of origin:
- For locally manufactured food, the business name and address of food manufacturer or re-packer (mailing address with postal code including email and web address, if available) and phone number shall be declared.
- For imported items, the contact addresses of an importer or distributor or re-packer in addition to a manufacturer or packer (mailing address with postal code including email and web address, if available) and phone number shall be declared.
- The country of origin of the food shall be declared if its omission would mislead or deceive the consumer.
- When a food undergoes processing in a second country that changes its nature, the country in which the processing is performed shall be considered to be the country of origin.
5. Some ancillary instructions regarding labeling:
- The manufacturing date should be based on the international calendar, and acronyms can be used in line with international standards.
- The “Use–by Date” or “Expiration Date” shall be declared, and where the expiration details do not apply, “Best-Before Date” or “Best Quality-Before Date” shall be declared.
- If the durability of the food depends on whether the original quality of the food is subject to the storage conditions, those special storage instructions shall be included on the label.
- For an ingredient added in small quantities (details not provided) for flavoring, or if the commodity is specified in Myanmar standards or CODEX Standards, the quantitative declaration may not be followed.
- If beverages contain alcohol, then the percentage (%) of alcohol by volume (Alc % vol) (% ABV) or degree of proof shall be clearly disclosed.
- Food which has been treated with ionizing radiation shall carry a written statement of “Treated by Irradiation” close to the name of the food or the international food irradiation symbol shall be used:
- A warning shall clearly and fully be described if the product is targeted to various situations.
- It is mandatory to declare nutrition facts if supplementary nutrients like vitamins or minerals are added to a food.
- The declarations shall not be misleading or meaningless, and claims interpreted as “good for health,” etc., except claims consistent with Codex standards or recognized by the relevant departments, should be avoided.
- Certifications regarding Good Hygienic Practice, Good Manufacturing Practice, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, and ISO (International Organization for Standardization) relating to good practices in food production, or text, symbols, marks and medal letters that refer to such certificates, shall not be declared on the label of pre-packaged foods without prior consent.
- Declarations on the label of pre-packaged foods shall be legible to normal eyes, prominent and indelible, in contract and clear from the background, and shall have font size which is at least 1 millimeter of “ဝ” (“Wa” character in Myanmar language) or “o” (small “o” character in the English language).
- For labeling, other than spices and herbs, if the widest surface of a product is smaller than 10 square centimeters, it shall be exempt from the declaration requirements;
- Foods packed by a seller or temporarily packed at retail shops shall be exempted from the labeling requirements;
- Small packages placed in bigger packages for food quality or safety or as per any technology shall be exempted from the labeling requirements, although the labeling of the bigger package must be complete, and there must be a clear warning that small packages shall not be for retail sales or direct catering purposes;
- If small packages inside bigger ones are produced for retail sales or direct catering, they shall not be exempted from the labeling requirement, and labels shall be provided on such small packages fully as prescribed; and
- Pre-packaged foods that are not sold to consumers directly but are to be sold to any processing business, shall be exempt from the labeling, but sufficient information relating to labeling shall be provided to buyers using separate documents or by electronic means.
Responsibility of Food Business Operator (“FBO”)
- An FBO means an individual or organization engaging in the display of food, provisions of food samples and advertising for matters related to manufacturing, modification, packaging, distribution, storage, selling, importation, exportation and marketing of food. The term also includes cottage industries or small and medium-sized enterprises.
- An FBO is under obligation to fully comply with the Order, relevant Directives, and the Draft Guideline upon being enforced. When the relevant department or organization requests the FBO to submit the explanations for labels and claims of pre-packaged food, they should truly and correctly comply with the same.
- If an FBO violates any prohibition under this Order, they shall be punishable as per the provisions prescribed under the Law. All FBOs shall continue to observe the provisions relating to labels and claims set out in the rules, orders and directives that are stipulated by the powers vested in the Law.
Responsibility of Consumers
Caveat Emptor (Latin for “let the buyer beware”). Consumers shall be responsible for choosing the right products with the labels and claims, and appropriately using the products or consuming food that conforms with the provisions in this Order.
If anyone finds a label or claim that does not conform to the provisions set out in this Order, they may inform and report to the FDA or the committee or organization formed under the Law.
Coming into Force
This Order shall not be retroactive for any label of any food locally manufactured or imported before the issuance of this Order on 20 January 2022. Moreover, only the locally manufactured date or date of importation shall be used to determine the effective period specified under this Order, and regardless of whether the label is approved or not before this Order was issued, the provisions herein shall be in force equally. A period of one year starting from the date this Order was issued shall be deemed as the awareness and preparatory periods.
Directives by FDA pursuant to the Order:
As stated in one of the Directives, conditions to be followed are prescribed for changing ingredients’ general class names into specific class names along with providing food additive declarations.
- General class names can be changed to be used as specific class names prescribed in the directive except for such ingredients that might cause allergies to consumers; and
- There are also food additive functional classes in the Directives that shall be described along with the class names or code numbers of the products that use such food additives (Class names and international numbering system for food additives; CXG 36-1989).
Another of the Directives highlights that food enterprises must carry out activities in line with the following criteria regarding situations in which production dates or packaged dates are not required to be provided on food products:
- Situations where safety and quality of the products cannot be affected due to a lack of microbial growth such as alcohol, salt, acid etc.;
- Fresh food products with no food preservation, and when conditions can easily be observed by consumers at the time of purchase. Additionally, if there is any damage to food products that can visually be recognized by consumers; and
Conditions in which no damage or loss occurs to the original quality or other qualities such as color, odor, or taste of food products
The information provided here is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be obtained from qualified legal counsel for all specific situations.