Why is so much information required to create a food label in Japan?
The information required on a food label is different depending on the definition of each product. There are mainly two standards which are applied to food labeling in Japan: Food Sanitation Act and Food Labeling Standards.
The Food Labeling Act is the unification and consolidation of three different standards related to the labeling of food products: the Food Sanitation Act, the Law Concerning Standardization, etc. of Agricultural and Forestry Products and the Health Promotion Act. It was developed with the purpose of establishing a comprehensive and unified system regarding the labeling of food products.
As for concrete labeling rules, they are defined in the Food Labeling Standards, with rules for mandatory labeling items like the product name, allergens, storage method, best-before (or expiration) date, ingredients, additives, nutrients and energy values, country of origin, and other information that must be mentioned by the business dealing with food products.
It is the duty of the business dealing with food products to ensure that their product(s) are in compliance with the Food labeling Standards.
e.g.) “Frozen food”
The following statements are required on the label:
- Frozen food
- Cooking instructions (e.g. Cook before consumption)
- Whether the product received heat treatment before freezing.
(When the product requires cooking before consumption).
“Food Standards by food group”(Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare)
“Food Labeling Standards”
Under the Food Labeling Standards, aside from general standards for processed foods, there are specific requirements corresponding to each food item (the processed food category includes 46 food items). Manufacturing methods, acid levels (pH) and even the type of raw materials being used are specified in the standards according to the definition of respective food items. The packaging is also subject to the Standards; (you need to ensure that the packaging of food products meets the requirements set out in the standards.)
e.g.) “Chilled gyoza (dumpling)”
Chilled dumplings (including gyoza): It is a prepared food consisting of a filling wrapped in dumpling skin. They are steamed, baked, or deep-fried (flavored with seasonings or spices), and stored at refrigeration temperatures.
Dumplings formed into a semicircular or a circular shape.
The following statements are usually provided on the label:
a) Product name (the name of the food)
c) Food additives
d) The ratio of dumpling skin and filling
e) Net weight
f) Date of expiry
g) Storage conditions
h) Cooking instructions
i) The terms “Fish”(魚肉) or “Vegetables” (野菜), depending on the product specifications.
j) Origin of Ingredients
k) (Country of origin)
l) The name and address of manufacturer
*Of which listed above, a), b), c), e), f), g), h), j), k) and l) are mandatory labeling.
*The tariff rate varies depending on product definitions specified by the JAS.
“Food Labeling Standards"
The standards applied to food additives differ by product definitions.
e.g.) sorbic acid (a preservative)
*The maximum amount of sorbic acid permitted for use:
Fruit wine 0.20g/kg
(The above is just an example.)
Source: “Standards for use of additives and preservatives”
Nutrients in food are subject to the standards, and there are limits to the amount of nutrients for dietary supplements.
Source: “What is dietary supplement?”(Consumer Affairs Agency)
When making claims on nutrition on the packaging, it is required that the food contains a certain level of nutrients.
Source: “What is the system of nutrition labeling?”(Consumer Affairs Agency)
As described above,it is essential to ensure that products meet all Food Sanitation Act and Food Labeling Standards. Food label requirements are complex and vary from product to product, a lot of information is therefore required to create a food label in Japan.