Singapore issues guidelines for food health claims

By Wai Mun Poon, EAS Strategic Advice Pte Ltd

In a positive move for industry, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore has issued clear guidelines on applying for approval of health claims for foods intended for sale in Singapore. The guidelines were developed by the AVA’s Advisory Committee on Evaluation of Health Claims and are based on Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) recommendations on the scientific basis for health claims. This shows the authority is moving to align its rules with global trends and to keep up with developments in the functional foods category. The clear requirements for new health claims applications will also enable manufacturers to plan scientific studies more effectively.

Under the new guidelines, manufacturers may apply for new health claims such as “Nutrient function claims”, “Other function claims” and “Disease risk reduction claims” for their food products. The requirements for scientific evidence to substantiate the claims as defined by CAC are also clearly spelled out in the guidelines. For example, the proposed wordings of the claim must clearly define the relationship of the food or food constituent to the health claim. Well-designed human intervention studies should form the preponderance of scientific evidence while human observational studies may cited as supporting data. Non-human studies may also be used as supporting evidence to demonstrate the relationship between the food and the health effect. Applicants must submit at least five independent peer-reviewed published or unpublished human and non-human studies.

So far, the committee has completed its evaluation on the claim for products containing plant sterols/stanols. The following proposed health claim may be used if the product meets the conditions specified by AVA: "Plant sterols/stanols have been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High blood cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease".

The detailed guidelines and the application form for new health claims for foods intended for sale in Singapore can be found on the Singapore AVA’s website.

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