If you're considering starting a food business in Korea, whether as an exporter or importer, it is crucial to understand the country's food allergen labeling requirements and recommendations. Failure to comply with these regulations can lead to legal and financial repercussions, along with potential damage to your brand's reputation. Here's what you need to know:
Food Allergen Labeling Requirements in Korea
In Korea, there is a specific list of allergens that are mandatory to label on food products. These allergens include eggs (confined to those from poultry), milk, buckwheat, peanuts, soybeans, wheat, mackerel, crab, shrimp, pork, peach, tomato, sulfurous acid (confined to cases where sulfurous acid is added and the final product includes 10mg/kg or more SO2), walnuts, chicken, beef, squid, clams (including oyster, abalone, and mussels), and pine nuts.
If your product contains any of these allergens, it is essential to list them on the label. Furthermore, if your product uses raw materials that contain allergens, or if another product uses the substance obtained through extraction or other methods from your product, or food or food additives that contain your product or its substance as an ingredient, then the raw materials must be listed on the label regardless of content. A separate allergen labeling must also be made near the raw material labeling with a different background color to indicate the raw materials that require allergen labeling.
For example, if your product contains wheat and milk, your label should state: "This product contains wheat and milk."
Warning Label for Possibility of Allergen Mixture
According to the Food Labeling Standard, if a manufacturer uses the same manufacturing process for both products that contain allergens and those that don't, a warning label must be included indicating the possibility of allergen mixture in the contents for consumer safety. In this case, the specific allergen used as a raw material for the product does not need to be labeled.
Common Food Allergies in Korea
According to a 2013 survey conducted by researchers from Yonsei University and Seoul Women's University in Korea, the ratio of students who had experienced food allergy was 12.6%, with 7.6% experiencing reactions in the last 12 months and 6.8% diagnosed with food allergies by doctors. Eggs, milk, peach, and crabs were found to be the most frequent allergenic foods.
While Korea's list of mandatory allergens is limited, it's important to recognize that allergies to other ingredients still exist in Korea. To gain customers' trust, it is recommended that businesses voluntarily label other common allergens, such as tree nuts and seasme, even if they are not legally required to do so.
Additionally, businesses should take steps to prevent cross-contamination and ensure that their facilities and equipment are thoroughly cleaned between uses to minimize the risk of allergen contamination.