Hot! The Work of the Thailand Food and Drug Administration

by Melanie Suvanajata

It’s a cliché that these days we live in a connected world, linked together by the internet and commercial media, but it’s also true.  These connections even extend to the food we consume, the medicines we take and the cosmetics we use.  These products go on amazing journeys before they reach supermarket shelves. In Thailand, a fundamental part of that journey involves the little publicised, but vitally important, Food and Drug Administration of Thailand (FDA) – it’s not mentioned at the celebrity launch parties, but without its work, our food and medicinal choices would be severely limited. This article explores the role of the Thai FDA plays in registering the food and medicinal products that are stored in our cupboards and on our shelves.

What does the Thai FDA Do?

The Thai FDA is the government department responsible for issuing licenses to importers and producers of medicines, food, food supplements, medical devices, as well as other potentially toxic substances, so that those products can be imported and sold in Thailand. Anyone intending to import such products into Thailand needs to obtain a food/medicine registration from the FDA. The Thai FDA also has authority to control product advertising, ensuring that the claims made by producers are backed by proper evidence and studies.

The main aim of the FDA is the protection of consumer health and this is done for every aspect of a product’s life: when and where the product is made, the production conditions and whether the final product complies with relevant Thai laws and regulations. The FDA also monitors product standards by carrying out periodic checks.

To help the FDA to fulfil its role, many of those working at the FDA are qualified pharmacists, nutritionists and food technologists.

So, if you’ve decided that you can’t live without your favourite sandwich spread any longer, or you want to make sure your favourite moisturiser is available on demand, then your first stop will be the Thai FDA for registration.

How Can I Get a License to Import My Products into Thailand?

The Thailand FDA has a clear procedure to follow depending on the type of product that is being imported. In general though, importers need to provide fairly comprehensive details about the company that will import the product, plans and photos of the production facility and evidence to show that Thai law requirements have been met in respect of manufacturing, including, for example, lighting and ventilation, proper areas for preparation, the type of equipment that will be used.

As always, it can be difficult to navigate through fairly substantial documentation requirements and, as providing incomplete documentation can cause substantial delays, it is very worthwhile consulting an expert in this field, who can assist you in completing the documentation and making sure you have given the FDA an adequate amount of information.  In the case of importing food, the food labels must be translated into Thai and again, expert help can be essential.

The FDA has a substantial workload and therefore, times for Thailand FDA registration can vary. Cosmetic registrations can be obtained within a day while food registrations might take as long as four months, medicines can take much longer. Again, consulting a law firm that is familiar with the Thai FDA registration and its processes can help to make sure that applications are dealt with as quickly, and smoothly, as possible.

Help! I Can’t Find My Medicine in Thailand

It’s important to realise that the Thai FDA has absolute discretion in registering products for sale in Thailand. Therefore, sometimes, medicines that are available overseas cannot be found in Thailand, either because no application has been filed for registration or registration has not been achieved.

On the other hand, it can sometimes be possible to find medicines that are unfamiliar but which advertise the same outcomes as better known products. Recently, there have been suggestions that the FDA step up its surveillance procedures to make sure that the products on sale do actually meet required standards and that they are as effective as claimed, as well as ensuring that products haven’t been left on a dusty shelf for too long and have expired.

To conclude then, while its name is not as glamorous as the food and medicinal products which pass through it, the FDA’s role is to protect consumers while maximising the purchasing choices available to us.

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