Taiwan’s health food manufacturers have been facing export challenges, as products which are said to be Taiwan Quality Food Association (TQF) certified – the equivalent of GMP – is authorised by a civilian organisation formed by the industry, instead of an official government unit.
As a result, some of the health foods export were stuck at the custom clearance phase. Such circumstances were first experienced at the Malaysian customs, and more recently Vietnam as well.
The two countries are from ASEAN, which is also Taiwan’s largest health food importer.
The export challenges arose about three to four years ago, when the Taiwan’s Industrial Development Bureau from the Ministry of Economic Affairs which was in charge of GMP certifications, transferred this responsibility to a civilian unit.
To mitigate the export challenges, TFDA is planning to establish the “National Nutritional Health Food GMP Specifications”, NutraIngredients-Asia learned from the section chief of TFDA’s Risk Management Division, Tsai-Luen Lue.
According to Lue, the specifications, which will be drafted upon consultation with the industry, academic, and related NGOs, will complete drafting by the end of this year.
And from next year onwards, health food manufacturers who are operating from Taiwan are able to voluntarily apply for GMP certificates based on this set of specifications.
More importantly, under this arrangement, the GMP certificates will bear the logo of TFDA, which helps to provide official government recognition. This will hopefully eliminates the current export challenges arising from the lack of an official government authorisation.
“TQF is drafted in the same spirit as GMP. It specifies requirements for food manufacturing, however, it is unable to address our export challenges, the official government authorities are still required to intervene,” Lue said.
“Since abiding by (either TQF or GMP specifications) are voluntary options, manufacturers who choose to abide by the specifications are usually those who are seeking to export their products,” he added.
Taiwan’s biggest health supplements importer is ASEAN, followed by the US and China.
On the other hand, supplements which come in the form of beverages and capsules made up the bulk of the exports, Lue said.
As for the export challenges coming from Malaysia, TFDA had earlier on worked on an alternative arrangement with Malaysia.
Under the arrangement, supplements which are categorised by Malaysia’s National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA) to be regulated under GMP, will require certificates of “the secondary tier quality control” and “food expansion verification program” issued by the TFDA.
However, these arrangements only apply when exporting to Malaysia.
As for Vietnam, TFDA was also looking to work on an arrangement similar to that of Malaysia, Lue revealed.