In what appears to be an interesting development for elderly nutrition, South Korea has become one of the first country in Asia to introduce a certification for elderly food – the ‘S mark’ for food products that have undergone review and been approved as elderly-friendly.
South Korea has been trying to give structure to the local elderly-friendly foods category since it was created in 2018 by amending the local Food Code, going as far as to lay out specific governance for the category.
Previously, there was no proper certification scheme as products that are considered fit to elderly nutritional requirements are just lumped into this category.
The new S mark certification scheme falls under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA) and the Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries (MOF), and recently completed its first round of reviews, certifying 27 products from 8 local food companies as elderly-friendly.
There are 3 levels of elderly-friendly food under this certification scheme – suitable for intake with teeth (hardness between 50,000 to 500,000 N/m2?), for intake with gums (hardness between 20,000 to 50,000 N/m2?) and without chewing/only using tongue (hardness of less than 20,000 N/m2 ?and viscosity below 1,500 milliPascal/second). Each level is allowed to use a different S mark label.
According to MAFRA, this first elderly-friendly foods review saw 10 companies and 35 products in total apply for certification, and after this first successful trial, the ministries will be expanding the number of assessments from one to 4 every year so that more food manufacturers will have the opportunity to develop elderly-friendly foods and get certified.
Various well-known names have successfully made the cut, such as Shinsegae with its Easy Balance branded beef bulgogi mousse and grilled flounder mousse, Hyundai Green Food with its Softer branded pork and beef stews and hamburg steak, and Pulmuone’s Foodmerce with 9 RTE meals.
MAFRA and MOF hope that this certification will help elderly consumers to easily choose foods that are more suitable for them in terms of nutrition, digestion and absorption, and will bring benefits to both consumers and the manufacturers.
Elderly-friendly food has been recognised as a future food trend and with the new ‘S’ mark, it will be easier for Korean companies as well as ministries to promote the growth of this industry. Earlier in March 2021, the government had also launched a specialised Elderly-friendly Industrial Support Centre to work on multiple areas of elderly-friendly food planning, from policy planning to product commercialisation and promotion.