Claims boost? South Korea proposes ginseng for liver health and wider sources of protein

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Ginseng is the most popular health functional food in South Korea. ©Getty Images
Ginseng is the most popular health functional food in South Korea. ©Getty Images

Related tags Ginseng Protein South korea

The South Korean authorities have made a number of new suggestions for Health Functional Foods (HFF) regulations, such as allowing ginseng products to make liver health claims and expanding the sources of raw materials for making protein products.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) is collecting public feedback which will close on May 2.

Currently, protein products can only be made from raw materials containing high protein content – such as beans, milk, eggs, meat, nuts, grains, edible insects, and seafood.

The regulator has proposed to allow all types of food raw materials to qualify as protein sources.

In addition, it hopes to relax the use of liver health claims for HFFs containing ginseng.

At the moment, companies can make claims related to immune health, bone health​, and relieving fatigue for their HFFs containing ginseng.

To make any other claims, such as liver health claims, companies will need to submit specific documents, such as data on the product’s safety and functionality, to the MFDS for assessment.

If MFDS’ proposal is accepted, ginseng HFFs could claim to support liver health without going through such an assessment.

Red ginseng is the bestselling health functional food in South Korea, with sales hitting KRW$1.1tr (US$880m) in 2020.

Aloe vera

On the other hand, the regulator is proposing to remove whole aloe leaf from the list of generic functional ingredients used in HFFs.

This is because it contains aloe latex – which could cause adverse effects related to liver toxicity when consumed in the long run.

Aloe gel, on the other hand, will remain in the list.

If approved, South Korea will follow the steps of Taiwan and European Union, where whole aloe leaves’ use has been restricted.

Probiotics and allergens

Prior to this announcement, the MFDS had proposed new regulations for probiotics and allergens labelling.

Under the proposal, it is mandatory to label allergens on the product’s information display panel.

The authority has listed nearly 20 allergens, including eggs, milk, peanuts, buckwheat, soybeans, wheat, mackerel, walnuts, pine nuts, tomatoes, peaches, pork, and seafood such as shellfish and squid.

As for probiotics, it is proposing to label probiotic count in Korean, instead of just numeral digits to help consumers read the labels better.

For instance, a probiotic containing 100,000,000 CFU per gram should be labelled as containing 100 ‘baegman’ CFU per gram. ‘Baegman’ means a million in Korean. 

Public consultation on these two suggestions will end on March 17. 

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