New rules and restrictions on infant formula labelling and advertisements

On 1 Sep 2019, the Food (Amendment No. 2) Regulations (the "New Regulations") came into operation, implementing new rules on the labelling and advertising of infant formula products. The New Regulations will supplement the existing laws under the Sale of Food Act (Food Regulations) (the "Food Regulations").

The revisions come two years after the Singapore Food Agency's (the "SFA") public consultation with stakeholders to tighten the labelling and advertising requirements for infant formula products, as part of the government's efforts to promote breastfeeding and counter the industry's aggressive marketing and "premiumisation" of infant formula. The New Regulations only target infant formula products designed for infants under 12 months of age, and do not affect other infant foods such as cereals and fruit puree.

In particular, the New Regulations now make it compulsory for infant formula labels to feature:

a. Warning statements about the health hazards of improper use, preparation or storage of infant formula; and

b. Prominently displayed statements to ensure that consumers understand that breast milk is best for infants and that the infant formula should be used on the advice of a doctor or a healthcare practitioner.

Where the infant formula is marketed as being "lactose free" or "low lactose", its total lactose content must be less than 10mg per 100 kcal. The accompanying label for such formula must also include:

a. Claims along the lines of "low lactose" or "lactose free";

b. A statement in the nutrition information panel stating the exact amount of lactose in the infant formula; and

c. The warning statement "Not suitable for infants with galactosaemia" in the same font, size and in close proximity to the words "low lactose" or "lactose free", if the infant formula is manufactured from protein sources other than soya protein isolates.

The New Regulations further prohibit infant formula labels and advertisements from containing, among others:

a. Claims about the health effects of the product, its ingredients or components;

b. Any claim idealising the effects of infant formula;

c. Comparisons to breast milk;

d. Representations of infants, pregnant or nursing women; and

e. Words connotative of breastfeeding such as "humanised" or "maternalised".

Companies will have a 12-month grace period until 1 September 2020 to comply with the New Regulations.

The New Regulations reinforce the government's efforts to promote breastfeeding by ensuring that consumers are aware that infant formulas are not replacements for breast milk. Reports have shown that unlike infant formulas, breast milk contains important antibodies needed to protect infants from illnesses such as diarrohea and pneumonia.

However, it remains unclear whether the new prohibitions on graphics and words will bar some companies' trade marks which contain pictorial illustrations of infants, pregnant or nursing women, from being featured on their own infant formula packaging. This is since the Sale of Food Act provides for the implementation of regulations to prohibit the use of certain trade marks in relation to food packaging and advertisements. At this point in time, following the public consultation with stakeholders, the SFA has only clarified that the prohibition on health effect-related claims is not applicable to trade marks.

The New Regulations can be found here. The SFA has also published an accompanying list of Frequently Asked Questions and responses relating to the New Regulations accessible here.


New Resource Sustainability Bill to regulate treatment of waste

On 5 September 2019, the Singapore Parliament passed the Resource Sustainability Bill (the "RSB") as part of Singapore's Zero Waste Masterplan. The RSB seeks to tackle Singapore's waste production by making it mandatory for significant waste contributors to re-use and recycle more.

The RSB implements a framework requiring persons who profit from the supply of products to bear the cost of treating and collecting them when they become waste. It focuses on three waste types with high wastegeneration and low recycling rates:

a. Part 3 of the RSB: Electrical and electronic waste;

b. Part 4 of the RSB: Packaging waste; and

c. Part 5 of the RSB: Food waste.

Part 3 establishes an Extended Producer Framework for electronic waste, making registration a pre-requisite for producers to supply regulated products. Additionally, producers of regulated non-consumer electrical or electronic products will now be responsible for the collection and treatment of their own e-waste.

Part 4 establishes a mandatory reporting framework requiring producers to report on particular types of packaging they introduce into the Singapore market. These producers will also have to submit its plans to the National Environment Agency (the "NEA") on how it intends to reduce, re-use or recycle such packaging.

Part 5 targets premises that are large generators of food waste, whereby occupiers will be required to segregate their food waste and dispose of the same in a facility that the building manager will be obligated to provide. These building managers will in turn be responsible for ensuring the proper treatment of such food waste.

The RSB will have some teeth to facilitate the enforcement of the bill, authorised officers will be empowered to request for information and documents from anyone, and enter commercial premises to investigate or monitor for compliance with the RSB. Penalties under the RSB will include fines of up to S$10,000 for the failure to comply with the various provisions on the collection and disposal of unwanted products.

The NEA has announced that it will stagger the RSB's implementation to give companies time to adjust to the new regulations. The NEA will also help co-fund food waste management systems and work with industry associations to assist companies with mandatory reporting requirements.

The RSB marks Singapore's first implementation of a systems-level approach mandating producers' key responsibilities to reduce, re-use and recycle. The shift from a voluntary to a mandatory approach will likely compel suppliers to improve their waste management capabilities, and incentivise them to develop more environmentally-friendly methods of production at the outset.

The RSB can be found here. The closing speech by Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Dr Amy Khor for the second reading of the RSB can be found here.