Traders must be able to substantiate 'organic', 'cage-free' claims

We refer to Mr Cheng Choon Fei's letter (Look into high prices, claims of 'free-range', 'cage-free' eggs; Sept 29).

Food sold in Singapore must meet our food safety requirements.

However, traders may provide additional information on how the food is produced to differentiate their products, for example with "organic" or "cage-free" labels.

These traders have the responsibility to ensure that they can substantiate their claims, for instance by producing documentation such as organic certificates.

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) adopts the guidelines and standard established by the international food standards body, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, for the use of claims such as "organic".

Under the food regulations, food labelled with claims of being organically produced must be certified by a duly constituted certification body under an inspection and certification system that complies with the Codex guidelines.

AVA will take enforcement action against importers if any food product is found to be falsely labelled.

As for eggs, poultry farms that produce fresh table eggs for sale in Singapore need to be accredited or licensed by AVA.

Import of "free-range" eggs is currently restricted due to biosecurity concerns, as the poultry can access an outdoor range with exposure to wild birds that may carry the avian influenza virus.

However, "cage-free" eggs from poultry that are kept in enclosed barn-style houses are allowed for sale in Singapore.

The assurance of food safety and quality requires the combined effort of the Government, the food industry and the consumer.

Members of the public can play their part by being discerning consumers.

Consumers who have queries on the claims on food labels may contact the companies for more information. Members of the public may also submit feedback to AVA at www.ava.gov.sg if they suspect these claims to be false.

Astrid Yeo (Dr)

Group Director, Regulatory Administration Group

Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 09, 2018, with the headline 'Traders must be able to substantiate 'organic', 'cage-free' claims'. Print Edition | Subscribe