SINGAPORE – 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 Monday.
The products include well-known brands owned by Ezaki Glico Co. and Nissin Food Products Co.
The Straits Times reported Monday that the Environment Ministry has identified six Japanese products that contain stevia.
These include Nissin Tatsujin Tonkatsu Ramen Instant Noodles, Nissin UFO Oomori Yaki Soba Instant Noodle, Glico Biscuit Sticks and Koikeya Don Tacos corn chips.
An official at the Singapore Daimaru supermarket said up to 60 Japanese items have been removed from shelves in the past two weeks on the advice of the ministry.
Stevia is a natural, sweet-tasting noncaloric plant approved as a food supplement in the U.S.
Industry sources said they believe about half the Japanese food items sold in Singapore may 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 Pte. Ltd., 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.
Food products from South Korea have also been affected.
The Straits Times said the ministry plans 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 ministry was also quoted by the newspaper as saying that one of the difficulties it encountered in detecting the sales of these products is that “the presence of stevia was not declared on the English labeling.”
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