Special purpose foods law: South Korea’s third phase of mandatory traceability programme kicks in this December

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

South Korea is making traceability of special purpose foods mandatory to all companies from December next year. ©Getty Images
South Korea is making traceability of special purpose foods mandatory to all companies from December next year. ©Getty Images

Related tags South korea Traceability Infant formula Foods for special medical purpose

South Korea’s third phase of its mandatory traceability program for special purpose foods, including infant formula and Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMPs), will begin in December this year.

In this phase of the rollout, both overseas and local manufacturers which have recorded a turnover of KRW$100m (US$89k) in 2016, will need to adhere to food traceability requirements, the country’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) announced.

Aside from infant formula and FSMPs, manufacturers of other special purpose foods, such as those for pregnant, lactating women, and formulated food for weight control, will also need to adhere to the policy.

This is part of a four-part initiative which first started in 2019, beginning with manufacturers with a turnover of KRW$5bn (US$4.4m) and later applied to those with a turnover of KRW$1bn (US$897k) in the second phase.

In its announcement, the MFDS said that the fourth phase would kick in next December, with all manufacturers of special purpose foods will need to provide traceability info unto a public domain.

“[The program started with companies with higher revenue because] the large companies are fully capable in preparing for this system.

“But, the small medium enterprises are not prepared in the financing, information, and the manpower [to conduct food traceability],”​ Dr Frank Kim, founder and CEO of SEAH Bio, a South Korea-based regulatory consultancy specialising in nutraceutical, pharmaceuticals, and processed foods regulations told NutraIngredients-Asia.

“The MFDS is making food traceability provision starting from the big to small companies but the eventual goal is to make it 100% mandatory, from Dec 2022,”​ said Dr Kim, who used to be involved as a team manager of a taskforce set up by the MFDS in updating health functional food CODEX.

The policy requires companies to furnish information such as the country of origin for each and every ingredient used in the products, the product name, the company name, and the food traceability management number into MFDS’s Food Traceability System website.

“Usually, companies do not want to disclose too much information to the public, especially to their competitors.

“But with mandatory traceability, companies are forced to disclose information, which is a fair game for all,”​ he added. 


There is a likelihood that the traceability programme will be extended to nutraceuticals in the future, Dr Kim believes.

“The MFDS is trying to enlarge the number of health claims that could be made on the labelling, but in the meanwhile, it is also very carefully approaching product safety,”​ he said, adding that the authorities have been prioritising consumer safety when introducing traceability policies.    

South Korea is one of the few countries that have made special foods traceability mandatory.

Elsewhere in China, the endeavour has been taken by a mix of government authorities and the industry.

One example is how the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and WeChat have launched the country’s first WeChat mini program for infant formula traceability.

Danone also launched a Track & Connect traceability service​ for its Aptamil baby formula in China. 

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