Should there be global standards for fermented foods? A new study argues “to preserve consumer confidence in fermented foods,” uniform regulations are needed.
Current guidelines “are not mature enough to adequately regulate the significant diversity of fermented foods that are increasingly available in the market,” reads the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Nutrition. While fermented foods are experiencing a major resurgence in popularity, standards and regulations differ by country and – in some instances – region and state. Fermentation regulations are few and, in the case of some foods, nonexistent.
Scientists at Teagasc, Ireland (the agriculture and food authority in Ireland) studied regulations in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and Australia/New Zealand. Their research – supported by the Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences (IAFNS) – is thorough. They found legislative efforts to regulate or standardize fermented foods “have been largely reactive, rather than being proactive, in nature.”
A harmonized blueprint, the study continues, would include specifics for each fermented food, not just the category. Uniform standards would include:
- Microbial and chemical composition
- Safety protocols
- Standards on storage, transportation and distribution
- Communication guidelines
- Regulatory clarity
- Government expert committee oversight
“Ultimately, addressing the challenges outlined here, would contribute to the ease of doing business, encourage consumer and investor confidence, leading to growth and innovation in this category, which in turn will catalyse overall economic progress,” the study reads.
There is also a need for a uniform regulatory framework because there is “…a visible lack of consideration of insights gained from the large corpus of microbiome studies on FFs and their microbial composition in corresponding global Food Standards or Codes.”
There is currently a Codex Alimentarius or “Food Code” by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, part of the Food Standards Programme for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). But fermented foods are not extensively represented. Regional standards have also been established by FAO and WHO, but these are generally for traditional fermented foods and beverages consumed only in certain regions, not widely used elsewhere.
The study points to South Korea and India as examples. Both countries have consolidated standards and specifications on fermented foods into legislation.