BREAKING: New Plant-Based Food Labelling Rules in Thailand

Here's The Breakdown...

Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new regulations that could significantly impact how plant-based food products are labeled in Thailand. Their aim is to ensure ‘consumer clarity’, but the rules might cause more confusion… for both producers and consumers.

We’re going to break down what these changes mean, who’s behind them, and what they might do to the plant-based industry in Thailand.

What's Changing in Plant-Based Food Labelling?

The proposed regulations aim to restrict the terminology used on plant-based product labels. Terms such as ‘meat’ or terms referring to the style of a product such as ‘yogurt-style’ will be banned. However, certain terms will still be allowed if the label also clearly states that the product is plant-based. For example:

  • Allowed with Clear Labels: ‘Plant-based sausages’, ‘plant-based burgers’, and similar products can use those terms as long as the label prominently states “plant-based.”
  • Banned Terms: Using specific animal references and terms like “chicken”, “pork” or “bacon” in conjunction with “plant-based” may be restricted. Similarly, cheese descriptors like “cheddar” or “mozzarella” may also be banned for plant-based cheese products.

Why Is This Happening Now?

As we’ve seen in other countries around the world, the push for regulations on the labelling of plant-based foods is driven by the meat and dairy industries and their lobbying power. They argue that labelling restrictions are necessary to prevent confusion among consumers and to avoid misleading consumers about the nutritional value of plant-based products… However, their underlying concerns appear to be to protect their market share now that the plant-based food sector is experiencing significant growth.

According to reports, the plant-based market in Thailand is expected to reach a value of 45 billion THB (approximately USD 1.5 billion) in 2024, up from 30 billion THB in 2019, with an annual growth rate projected to rise significantly. The rise in plant-based food consumption threatens animal-based agriculture sectors, prompting them to advocate for stricter labelling regulations. This follows similar regulations that have been enforced in recent years in places including Europe, Australia and the United States. 

Fair Labelling for All Food Products

With such strict regulations being proposed over supposed concerns for consumers’ right to know what’s in their food, where is the same rigorousness when it comes to products on the market that clearly mislead vegans or vegetarians into unknowingly purchasing animal products?

Some soy milk brands in Thailand contain both dairy and soy milk but are simply labelled as “soy milk”. Additionally, there are many products on the market in Thailand labelled as “plant-based” (referring to one or more plant-based ingredients), but whilst also containing additional animal products, making the product decidedly not plant-based. This practice could mislead consumers who might expect a purely plant-based product. To avoid confusion, these products should (but aren’t) be clearly labelled to reflect their true contents, such as “Soy-Dairy Blend” or “Soy Milk with Dairy.” 

The Real Impact of Food

While restrictions on plant-based food labelling continue to mount, it raises an important question: should we not be more concerned about the health and environmental labels on products that significantly contribute to climate change and global health crises?

It is crucial to scrutinize the marketing claims of animal-based products, which often depict misleading images of sustainability and health benefits despite their substantial environmental impact. Ensuring that all food products, including those from the meat and dairy industries, are labeled accurately and transparently is essential for consumer awareness and environmental protection. By holding all sectors to the same rigorous standards, we can foster a more honest marketplace and promote better choices for personal and planetary health.

Is This A Global Trend?

Thailand’s move aligns with a broader global trend. The European Union recently imposed strict regulations on plant-based product labelling for terms like “milk” and “cheese”, and several US states are considering similar laws. These regulations have sparked debates and lawsuits with mixed outcomes.

Should ingredients like soy milk and coconut milk in Thailand really be subject to these stringent regulations, given their long-standing presence in Thai cuisine, far predating the introduction of dairy products? Imagine the implications if Thailand were to ban the terms ‘Soy Milk’ or ‘Coconut Milk’. These products are deeply rooted in Thai culinary traditions and have been staples in the Thai diet for generations. Such a ban would not only disrupt consumer familiarity but also disregard the cultural significance of these ingredients.

So What's Next?

Thailand’s proposed plant-based food labelling regulations create a situation clouded by confusion and hypocrisy. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that consumers generally aren’t misled by plant-based labels that clearly state “plant-based” alongside familiar terms like “meat” or “milk.” This raises questions about the true purpose of these regulations…

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BREAKING: New Plant-Based Food Labelling Rules in Thailand

Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new regulations that could significantly impact how plant-based food products are labeled in Thailand. Their aim is to ensure ‘consumer clarity’, but the rules might cause more confusion… for both producers and consumers.

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Thailand's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing new regulations that could significantly impact how plant-based food products are labeled in Thailand. Their aim is to ensure 'consumer clarity', but the rules might cause more confusion... for both producers and consumers.
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