South Korea to allow individual resale of health functional foods in year-long pilot project

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

South Korean authorities are planning to allow the resale of Health Functional Foods between individuals. © Getty Images
South Korean authorities are planning to allow the resale of Health Functional Foods between individuals. © Getty Images

Related tags South korea MFDS health functional foods

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) is planning to allow the reselling of Health Functional Foods (HFF), including red ginseng, probiotics, and vitamins, between individuals.

The year-long pilot project is meant to cut down on wastage and allow individual resale activities to take place conveniently.

Nonetheless, some restrictions might be put in place, such as limiting the number and transaction amount.

At present, individual resales of HFF are prohibited unless they are reported as business activities to the authorities.

Each month, about 40,000 cases of attempted individual resales are either automatically blocked by online platforms or reported by other online users, said the MFDS.

“Resale activities between individuals are viewed as ‘businesses’ that need to be reported.

“However, as peer-to-peer transactions through online platforms have increased recently, the [present] regulations are said to have caused inconvenience by limiting consumers’ choice,” ​the MFDS said in its announcement on January 16.   

South Korea’s HFF domestic market was worth approximately 6.2 trillion won in year 2023.

An array of HFF could be found in the market, ranging from products containing notified nutritional ingredients such as iron, notified functional ingredients such as red ginseng, and individually recognised ingredients, such as krill oil and turmeric. 

Consumers usually purchase HFF for their own consumption or for gifting.

Four in five households are said to have purchased HFF more than once a year, and the prevalence of gifting HFF stood at 26 per cent.

Sometimes, the gifts are not utilised, and individuals have sought to sell it online, but realised that they were being blocked or reported by other users.

The MFDS has therefore recommend allowing small-scale individual resale activities of HFF to take place in the first quarter of year 2024.

“In order to resolve public inconvenience, the Regulatory Appeals Department is improving the rationale behind the regulations on individual resale of health functional foods, while also keeping in mind concerns on risks to public health and [potential] confusion in the distribution market in the event of large-scale transactions,” ​the MFDS said.

Overseas regulations will be referenced to guide its decisions on the permitted number of individual resale activities and transaction amount.  

Japan, the US, and EU are some examples where individual resales are allowed.

The MFDS also said it would monitor illegal activities such as false or exaggerated advertising of HFF in individual resale activities.

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