Non-calorific plant stirs Singapore-Japan relations

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food products, Food, Singapore, Broadsheet

Singapore authorities have ordered supermarkets to remove a number
of Japanese food products containing stevioside, a sugar substitute
banned in the city state, industry sources said on Monday, reports
the Japan Times.

Singapore authorities have ordered supermarkets to remove a number of Japanese food products containing stevia, a sugar substitute banned in the city state, industry sources said on Monday, reports the Japan Times​.

The products include well-known brands owned by Ezaki Glico and Nissin Food Products. According the story, the Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times​ reported on Monday that the Environment Ministry had identified six Japanese products that contain stevia. Stevia is a natural, sweet-tasting non-calorific plant approved as a food supplement in the US.

An official at the Singapore Daimaru supermarket said up to 60 Japanese items had been removed from shelves in the past two weeks on the advice of the ministry.

Industry sources said they believed about half the Japanese food items sold in Singapore might contain stevia because the product is widely used in food manufacturing in Japan.

They expressed concern that removing food products containing stevia could have a big impact on Japanese food imports into Singapore and could be potentially embarrassing for the two countries, which signed a free-trade agreement in January this year.

The issue recently emerged after a Singapore company, Sunlabel, which has been trying unsuccessfully since 1998 to sell stevia as a dietary supplement in Singapore, complained to the ministry that products containing stevia are already widely sold in the city state.

The Straits Times said the ministry planned to take to court four companies that imported the products being removed from shelves. It said the ministry "is also checking whether food import controls need to be strengthened, now that this episode has highlighted how foods with banned additives could have been sold here for years without its knowledge."

The newspaper also quoted the ministry as saying that one of the difficulties it encountered in detecting the sales of these products was that "the presence of stevia was not declared on the English labelling."

Related topics: Policy

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