On November 11, 2021, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) published the Guideline on Designating and Canceling the Prohibited Ingredients of Directly Purchased Overseas Food Products1. This guideline is designed to help the Customs manage overseas food purchased directly by consumers to reduce the food risk exposed to Korean citizens.
As the Food Sanitation Act2 only regulates the food for selling, there were no regulations for foods directly brought from foreign countries by consumers (food for consuming). To enhance food safety control on such products, MFDS added the definition of “directly purchased overseas food products" and established the legal basis for publishing the risk information of such products in Imported Food Act3 on August 17, 2021.
“Directly purchased overseas food products" :
The food, health functional food, and livestock products, etc. purchased by the consumers directly from overseas cybermall.
As per the guideline, MFDS will collect the food ingredient risk information from the foreign countries' official websites and consumer complaint. The authority will then review whether the food ingredient is a hazard ingredient and establish a profile for each ingredient. Finally, MFDS will designate and notify the prohibited ingredients. Overseas food with such ingredients are forbidden from entering South Korea.
MFDS also plans to conduct a re-evaluation on the prohibited ingredient termly. If the ingredient is deemed as appropriate, the banning of food containing thus ingredient will be canceled.
The ingredients to be designated as prohibited ingredients in the "directly purchased overseas food products" are:
Prohibited materials prescribed in Food Code4
Prohibited food raw materials in health functional food manufacture prescribed in Health Functional Food Code5
Materials from BSE country without an exporting country's health certificate as prescribed in the Enforcement Rule of Imported Food Act6
Prescription medicine in Pharmaceutical Affairs Act7
Narcotics, narcotic drugs, psychotropic drug, and temporary narcotics in Narcotics Control Act8.
Raw materials causing severe side effects or toxic effects.
Although this guideline is to guide the Customs in controlling food risk, foreign food companies are suggested to pay attention to food compliance, especially the companies selling food to S. Korea via online platforms. Previously, the food product could only meet the exporting country’s standard. But after MFDS designates the prohibited food ingredients in "directly purchased overseas food products", food companies need to check if there are any forbidden materials in the product.