Briefs on International Trade (BIT) 2022/ - Department of Commerce
15th August 2022
Introduction to Laws and Regulations Related to Labeling of Health Foods in Japan
Japanese consumers have become more health conscious, demanding food products that contain natural ingredients, minimize food additives and sweeteners, and support health, dietary, and functional needs. Further, the growth of the Japanese market for health and functional foods can be attributed to a number of key demographic trends, including a rapidly aging society, an increase in lifestyle-related health problems, and a strong interest in health and beauty. Major contributors to this recent market growth include products for intestine regulation, lifestyle disease prevention, nutritional value, bone and joint support, dietary management, skin and beauty enhancement, and those labeled with Food for Specified Health Use (FOSHU).
Labeling of health foods is subject to regulations under the FOOD labeling Act similar to normal food. There are other laws and regulations that stipulate rules on labeling, Sri Lankan exporters and their buyers need to check the outline of their regulations and need to pay attention to careful planning and consideration on how to label and advertise healthy foods in the food markets in Japan while complying with regulations on food labeling.
Food Labeling Act
"Food" covered by the Food Labeling Act includes all kinds of food and drinks (including additives) excluding pharmaceuticals and quasi-pharmaceutical products, etc. Liquor specified by the Liquor Tax Law is also included. Concrete labeling rules are specified in the Food Labeling Standards and any food that is not labeled in accordance with said standards may not be marketed.
When marketing "processed foods placed in a container or packaging for general consumers, labeling must be in Japanese using proper and easy-to-understand terms, and item name, names of raw materials, additives, net content and other information must be displayed in a prescribed format at a location easily visible without opening the container or packaging.
What are Health Foods?
In Japan, there is no specific legislative definition for health foods. Generally, the term "health foods" is used to refer to "any products that are sold and used as foods that broadly contribute to maintaining and promoting health." Among health foods, food products for which labeling of their functions is permitted in accordance with the standards on the safety and functions determined by the national government are called "foods with health claims." Meanwhile, some food products are not allowed to have function claims referred to as "other health foods" . As such, health foods can be divided into two, namely, foods with health claims and other health foods, by whether functions can be labeled on the food product or not. The "other health foods" include supplements, nutrition supplements, health supplements, and natural foods. However, there is no legislative definition for these names in Japan.
Foods Labeled with Certain Nutritional or Health Functions
Foods for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) are scientifically recognized as helpful for maintaining and promoting health and are permitted to bear claims such as "Slows cholesterol absorption." The government evaluates the claimed effects and safety, and the Secretary-General of the Consumer Affairs Agency gives approval for the labelling of each food product that satisfies the requirements.
Foods with Nutrient Function Claims
Foods with Nutrient Function Claims (FNFC) can be used to supplement or complement the daily requirement of nutrients (vitamins, minerals, etc.) which tend to be insufficient in everyday diet. Given that the food product contains certain amounts of nutrients whose function has already been substantiated by scientific evidence, it can bear a nutrient function claim prescribed by the Standards without submitting a notification to the government.
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