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The amended Food Sanitation Act was published

On June 13, 2018, a law to amend parts of the Food Sanitation Act was published.

It has attracted much attention as:

  • - sanitation management by HACCP became mandatory for all food business operators (including restaurants)
  • - materials allowed for food packaging containers are now written in a positive list
  • - and the notification of health hazard information regarding food containing specific component also became mandatory.

Therefore, we will discuss the amendment and these topic in this month issue.

Background of the amendment

In the background of the amendment are the changes in our dietary environment and the internationalization (of foods markets).

About 15 years have passed since the last time the Food Sanitation Act was amended. In the meantime, the needs related to food products have changed along with the transformation of household structures: the demand for prepared food, food service and home-meal replacement has been increasing. Besides, the environment surrounding food is changing as can be noticed with the progression of the globalization (ex rapid development of imported foods).

It goes without saying that the context of this amendment is indeed the need of national food sanitation management standards consistent with international regulations in the light of the incoming Tokyo Olympics/Paralympics in 2020 and the related promotion of export of Japanese food, as well as the necessity to deal with a wide range of health hazard caused by food (such as food poisoning, etc.).

Summary of the amendment

The aim of this amendment, based on above mentioned realities, is to deal with the changes in our dietary environment and the internationalization (of foods markets).
The published summary of the amendment is as follows.

  1. Strengthening of measures against a wide range of food poisoning cases
    The national and prefectural governments shall coordinate and cooperate with each other to prevent the occurrence and expansion of a wide range of food poisoning risks, and the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare shall first set up a wide Coordination and cooperation council” consisting of stakeholders, and use this council to deal with such situation in case of emergency.
  2. Institutionalization of sanitation management according to HACCP
    In principle, all food business operators are now required to perform sanitation management following HACCP in addition to the common sanitation management.
    However, regarding certain food business operators and after taking into consideration the scale and type of their businesses, they will be allowed to manage sanitary matters in accordance with the characteristics of food they handle.
  3. Information collection related to health hazards caused by food containing components requiring special precautions
    In the viewpoint of preventing the occurrence of health hazards, business operators are now required to notify health hazards information to the government regarding food containing components requiring special precautions
  4. Consolidation of sanitation regulations for food utensils, containers and packages that are consistent with the international standards
    A positive list system shall be introduced which will limit the use of materials for food utensils, containers and packages to substances for which safety has been reviewed.
  5. Revision of the business licensing system and establishment of a business notification system
    The types of business to be given business license shall be revised to fit the current situation better, and a notification system for business operators (outside of this list of business which are currently given business license (34 types of business specified by a Cabinet Order)) shall be established.
  6. Establishment of a report system for food recall information
    A system for businesses to report their voluntary recalls to local government bodies shall be implemented.
  7. The others (requirement for sanitation certificates attached to dairy products and sea food products when importing and establishment of regulations regarding affairs of local governments related to export of food, etc.)

* HACCP …It is a sanitation management method to manage especially important process and secure safety to remove and reduce hazards among all the processes from receipt of ingredients to product shipment while business operators grasp hazards such as food poisoning and bacterium contamination.
It is becoming mandatory mainly in developed countries.

About “food containing components requiring special precautions”

If we must pick up a topic which will directly affect affairs of people in charge of food labeling among these amendments, probably “3. Information collection related to health hazards caused by food containing components requiring special precautions” should be the one, but only in case where products they are handling are “health food.”

However, “components requiring special precautions” are not specified at the moment. Therefore, it is a point of amendment which requires attention to future announcement just in case.
We quote the description about target food as follows.

“Food containing components designated by the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare as components requiring special precautions”

After health hazard information and bioactive information from documents are organized in the scientific viewpoint, professionals’ opinions by the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council and the Food Safety Commission are heard, and public comments are collected, and components requiring special precautions shall be designated.
(Examples of components subject to consideration: Among components which present alkaloid-like or hormone-like action, the ones which can cause health hazards by taking more than the designated amount)

About imported food and exported food

Following the amendment of “7. The others (requirement for sanitation certificates attached to dairy products and sea food products when importing and establishment of regulations regarding affairs of local governments related to export of food, etc.)”, the sanitation management system regarding both import and export will be strengthened.

[Import]

In order to check if food was properly inspected and managed in exporting countries and to secure safety of imported food, sanitation management based on HACCP and attachment of sanitation certificates to dairy products and sea food products shall be required when importing.

  • For certain food products, sanitation management based on HACCP shall be required when importing
  • Milk and dairy products shall be added to food subject to mandatory attachment of sanitation certificate (So far only meat, organs and meat products)
  • Mandatory attachment of sanitation certificate shall be enshrined in law (Blowfish and oysters to be eaten raw are subject)

[Export]

To show that exported food meets sanitation requirements of export destination, provisions of a law for affairs related to food export such as publishing sanitation certificates by national and local governments shall be established.

This amendment will require establishment of sanitation management system which is equal to international standard when you negotiate with companies abroad about export. Therefore, if you are considering to export in the future, it is better to check this amendment (especially sanitation management based on HACCP).

Future schedule

Enforcement is decided to be “on a date specified by a Cabinet Order within a period not exceeding 2 years from the day of promulgation (however, in case of 1, 1 year and in case of 5 and 6, 3 years).
If you engage in affairs of not only food labeling but also quality assurance in general, I recommend you to read through the content of amendment once.

Reference:
About amendment of the Food Sanitation Act (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

August 2018