Food label news: Highlights of 2017 and upcoming schedules

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Label bank Newsletter thanks to your support. We have continued publishing this newsletters modestly throughout the years, but it feels that time flies by so quickly. We truly hope you will continue reading our publications this year as well.

There were various events that happened regarding food labeling last year (in 2017). If you engage in food labeling practices, you must probably be busy in dealing with the new standards. So hopefully this summary will help you plan future business practices.

Last Year's Highlights

We picked the major events that happened last year among ones concerning food labeling and summarized them as follows. All in all, it is safe to say that the biggest topic was the “new Country of Origin Labeling system for ingredients (COOL)”. When public comments were collected in April, more than 8,000 opinions were submitted. Considering the fact that there were just about 4,000 public comments submitted for the “unification of food labeling standard” (which included no less than changes in how to display nutritional components (became mandatory), and in the method of labeling for allergens, additives and manufacturing plant identification marks), we can assume that the amendment of COOL in 2017 drew considerable attention.

2017 Jannuary A briefing session related to the "Review committee's interim report on the country of origin labeling system for ingredients in processed food products” was held
March "About the permission to use the labeling of special use food for special dietary uses" was amended
"About the Food Labeling Standard" was amended for the 7th time
April The discussions of the labeling system for genetically modified (GM) food started
September The Food Labeling Standard was amended (The new COOL system was implemented)
"About the Food Labeling Standard" was amended for the 8th time
"The Food Labeling Standard Q&A" was amended for the 3rd time
An explanatory meeting regarding "the new COOL system for processed foods" was held
A supplementary volume of the "Q&A about the labeling of alcoholic drinks in the Food Labeling Act" regarding COOL was announced
A "Q&A regarding Foods with Function Claims" was announced
October "About the permission to use the labeling of food for special dietary uses" was amended
December "The guidelines regarding notification of Foods with Function Claims" were amended

There were also other trends and changes happening in fields related to food labeling last year. In July 2017, the“Survey report on the actual situation of the provisory labeling system” was announced, which, we assume, had a great effect especially on business owners who are involved in mail order trading. Also in August, the JAS Law was amended so the JAS standard was significantly changed. The standard used to be just about “goods” but has also started to target standards related to production methods and test methods, a change which creates more chances and opportunities for business owners aiming to export to overseas countries. The start of animal quarantine regulations for dairy products in November also caused a big change, which has especially affected people involved in import/export and kept them busy.

Upcoming schedules

We also summarized upcoming schedules as follows. This is mainly focused on the transitional period for the new systems, so we hope this will provide you with a useful reference when establishing your future work plan.

2018  The summary of investigative commission of the labeling system for genetically modified (GM) food is scheduled to be reported
2020 April The transition period for the "food labeling standard" (processed foods, additives) will end
The validity period of the "Dietary Reference Intakes for Japanese (2015 Edition)" will end
2022 September The transition period of the new COOL will end

Important points to look forward this year

Regarding the amendment of COOL, keeping supporting materials will be a key. This is specifically true when considering the fact that COOL is a little different from the labeling of allergens and additives, as it may contain labeling claims related content (especially the mention “made domestically” and “produced domestically). Therefore, we think it is crucial to prepare materials supporting it to prevent misleading representations.

While establishing an information management system like this is important, it is more important to carefully observe consumers’ needs. A while ago, the labeling of“Manufacturing plant identification marks (and ‘manufacturers’)”, which have the same kind of characteristics, were amended. Thus, checking how businesses have been dealing with those systems may help you when considering a way to handle the new labeling system. There is a transition period, so we hope that this year will be a chance to think thoroughly about what consumers want for this type of labeling.

February 2018