Food Label Inspection in Japan

Label bank_Professional Food Labeling in Japan

"Matters to be Noted relating to Health Foods under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations and the Health Promotion Act" Published

On June 30, 2016, the Consumer Affairs Agency has revised "Matters to be Noted relating to So-Called Health Foods under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations and the Health Promotion Act" (hereafter referred to as "Old Version"), and the revised version is now called "Matters to be Noted relating to Health Foods under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations and the Health Promotion Act" (hereafter referred to as "New Version"). When it comes to the title, the only difference is with or without "So-Called" but the contents have been completely changed. Let's take a look at the major changes.

The definition of "Health Foods"


  • Old Version:So-called health foods* except for Food with Health Claims (FHC) products.
    *General health food products with health maintenance/promotion claims or functional claims (e.g. nutritional and health supplements).
  • New Version:Food products with health maintenance/promotion claims and so on ("health foods"), and FHC products.

The New Version includes FHC (FOSHU, FFC and FNFC)* products, providing some examples of label claims that may pose a problem. Also, in the ‘Feedback to Public Comments' document (link provided at the bottom), there is a mention that fresh foods with health claims are taken as "Health Foods". The definition of "Health foods" is better clarified in the New Version.

*FOSHU: Food for Specified Health Uses
FFC: Food with Functional Claims
FNFC: Food with Nutrient Function Claims

The definition of "Health maintenance/promotion benefits and so on"


There is no significant difference in this respect between the two Versions. The definition is divided into 13 parts; 1 to 4 in category (1) and 4 in (2) should be identified on product labels, while further information, such as the product specification, will be required to verify 1 to 3 in category (2). Some examples of Category (3) (i.e. claims like "healthy" and "easy for the body"), are given in the ‘Feedback to Public Comments' document.

(1) Health maintenance/promotion benefits

  1. Benefits in the treatment or prevention of diseases (e.g. label claims for medical foods)
  2. Benefits mainly aimed at an overall improvement of the body's structure and function (e.g. label claims for medical foods)
  3. Good for specified health uses (e.g. label claims for FOSHU, FFC products)
  4. Nutritional benefits (e.g. labeling for FNFC products)

(2) Definitions set by the Cabinet Office Ordinance

  1. The amount of foods or ingredients used (e.g. soybeans xx g, calcium xx mg)
  2. Content claims for specific foods or ingredients (e.g. includes propolis, xx extract used)
  3. Calorie content (e.g. xx% reduced calorie, zero calories)
  4. Benefits that make the body look better and more attractive, and change the way it looks, or that keep the skin and hair look healthy (e.g. make the skin healthy, lighter and moisturized)

(3) Claims that implicitly or indirectly suggest health maintenance/promotion benefits and so on

  1. Claims made as part of a product name or marketing claims
  2. Claims made by displaying and describing ingredients
  3. Claims made by a description of source/origin of ingredients
  4. Claims made by displaying information or a quote from newspapers/magazines, statements by doctors/scholars, questionnaire results, theories, or someone's experiences
  5. Claims of a mention that the product has been approved for specific efficacy by a government office (including foreign government offices)/research institute that has jurisdiction over matters concerning the nation's health promotion including medical care, pharmaceutical affairs and nutrition.

Prohibited Claims


In the New Version, prohibited claims are classified by category as below. The key point to be noted in this section is probably 1 in Category (1) "Misleading representations concerning the quality or standard of a product" given that the New Version has added a new clause "Restrictions on unproven advertising claims". This particular point is important not only in terms of health claims but also in terms of label claim review in general. New terms such as online buzz site, blog and affiliate marketing appear in the New Version.

(1) False Labeling under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations

  1. Misleading representations concerning the quality/standard of a product or service
  2. Misleading representations concerning the price/transaction of a product or service

(2) False and exaggerated labeling under the Health Promotion Law

  1. False claims
  2. Misleading claims
  3. Exaggerations like "Significantly"

Examples of label claims that could pose a problem


As mentioned earlier, specific examples of label claims that may pose a problem, in terms of FOSHU, FFC and FNFC products, are demonstrated in the New Version (10 examples in the 3 product categories), and we think this is the most striking change from the Old one. Here are some of the examples:

FOSHU: The claim "reduce the rise in neutral fats after a meal" is valid. In the meantime, to claim that the product "reduce the rise in neutral fats", without "after a meal", as if the advertised effect continued to last, may pose a problem.
FFC: To claim that a product has functional properties (without having scientific evidences to support it) by providing only limited information of the product notification, may pose a problem.
FNFC: To claim that the product has specific nutritional function other than those designated by the national government may pose a problem.

You will also find 7 labeling examples for health foods other than FHC products in the New Version. Due to sweeping changes in the contents ― although just a little change in the title ― we recommend that you refer to the New Version when reviewing your product packaging transition to the new Food Labeling Standard.

References:
"Matters to be Noted relating to Health Foods under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations and the Health Promotion Act”
http://www.caa.go.jp/policies/policy/representation/fair_labeling/pdf/160630premiums_8.pdf
Feedback to Public Comments on "Matters to be Noted relating to Health Foods under the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations and the Health Promotion Act”
http://www.caa.go.jp/policies/policy/representation/fair_labeling/pdf/160630premiums_7.pdf

August 2016