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Successful Policy Change and Continued Advocacy Efforts for Nutrition Labeling in Vietnam

On December 9, 2021, Vietnam approved its first-ever regulation requiring nutrient information on food labels. Decree 111/2021/NĐ-CP stipulates nutrient information on food products is mandatory and directs the Ministry of Health (MOH) to develop a circular with detailed requirements and guidance for implementing food nutrition labeling.

Prior to this regulation, nutrition information was not required on food labels, so this is an important step in helping Vietnamese people access accurate information about nutrients of concern (like sodium, sugar and fats) in packaged food to promote healthier diets and prevent non-communicable diseases. On average, annually, Vietnam has about 12.5 million people living with high blood pressure, 3.5 million people with diabetes, 2 million people with chronic heart and lung disease and nearly 165,000 new cases of cancer.

This policy approval was the result of months of work by a coalition – including the General Department of Preventative Medicine and Department of Legislation, MOH, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), and in-country research organizations – which was set up with the shared goal of including compulsory nutrition food labelling in the new Decree. The coalition conducted a global policy review identifying best practices and international experiences, stakeholder mapping, and a regulatory impact assessment to understand the current context of food labeling and relevant gaps. It used this information to provide MOH with evidence-based recommendations. The MOH organized a series of technical meetings and advocacy workshops were organized to share the findings and recommendations and to generate political support for nutrition labeling.

On March 23, 2022, a high-level inter-ministerial workshop was organized by the MOH to share the draft nutrition circular with stakeholders outside of the Ministry to obtain their opinions. This marked the first-time stakeholders within and outside of the government were invited to review the circular and provide input. The workshop participants included representatives from the ministries of Trade and Industry, Justice, and Science and Technology; civil society organizations, including GHAI; and the food industry. At the workshop, Dr. Veronica Schoj, Vice President for Food and Nutrition Policy at GHAI, and Ms. Kyra Berasi, Legal Advisor at GHAI, joined virtually as key presenters to share international experiences on nutrition labeling. Dr. Juliawati Untoro, Technical Lead Nutrition at World Health Organization Western Pacific Region, also presented on nutrition labeling to promote a healthy diet.

“Food labels are an important source of nutrition information and a key step in helping consumers select healthier choices,” said Dr. Veronica Schoj. She added, “We look forward to continuing to work with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health to ensure that a strong nutrition label circular is finalized.”