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Partial amendment of the Food Labeling Act
~Notifications of voluntary recall became mandatory~

On December 14, 2018, a law to partially amend of the Food Labeling Act (Act No. 97 of 2018) was published. According to this amendment, notifications to an administrative body became mandatory in case of voluntary recall of food products by a company. I would like to summarize the circumstances and details surrounding this amendment.

Main points of the amendment

  • When food-related business operators “voluntarily recall foods whose labeling does not follow the food labeling standards regarding food safety”, a notification to an administrative body will now be mandatory.
    (*NB - Violations of the food labeling standard now subject to mandatory notification are: lack or error of labeling in regards to allergen, Expiration date, etc.)
  • Information about such notification of food recall will be publically provided (by announcement) to the consumers by the related administrative body.
  • Those who do not notify or submit false information shall be fined.

Example of details provided in a voluntary recall notification, related to the Food Labeling Act

Name ***
Best-before date Year, Month, Date
Manufacturer *** Co.,Ltd.
Reason of voluntary recal Lack of allergen labeling for "crab"
Effects on health People who have an allergy to “crab” may develop allergic symptoms such as hives and dyspnea
Image Picture of the mandatory labeling frame
.... .......

Reference: Outline of the law to partially amend of the Food Labeling Act (Act No. 97 of 2018) (Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA))

Background of the amendment

According to the “law to amend partially of the Food Sanitation Act” published on June 13, 2018, notification of information about food recall was institutionalized.
Based on the amendment of the Food Sanitation Act, in case a food which violates the provisions (or one which is likely to violate them) is voluntary recalled, a notification to an administrative body is now required to be performed at the same time.
(*NB: including cases when products contain an ingredient which caused violation of the Food Sanitation Act, or when a hard component of a manufacturing line brakes and is mixed in a product, etc.)

Example of details provided in a voluntary recall notification, related to the Food Labeling Act

Name ***
Best-before date Year, Month, Date
Manufacturer *** Co.,Ltd.
Reason of voluntary recal Detection of EHEC (Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli) Strain O157
Effects on health Besides diarrhea and vomiting, there are past cases where symptoms became so severe that they led to death.
Image
.... .......

Reference: About the amendment of the Food Sanitation Act (notification system for food recall information) (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare)

When dealing with such examples, it was clear that the situation required – for the Food Labeling Act as well– a clear system in addition to prompt food recall based on violation of the Food Sanitation Act regarding safety of allergen, etc.
Also, many took up the issue that in the Food Labeling Act, when food-related business operators voluntarily recall foods, there was no system which required them to notify the food recall information to an administrative body.
However, many local bodies already have established their own notification systems of voluntary recall, so it should be easy for business operators who have undertaken a voluntary recall in the past to imagine this new, general system.
(A little less than 80% of all municipalities have either regulations or guidelines setting a voluntary notification system. *Source: About the amendment of the Food Sanitation Act (notification system of food recall information) (Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare))

Regarding voluntary notification systems established by local bodies

Business operators who have not undertaken a voluntary recall in the past are probably not familiar with voluntary notification systems, so it seems important to review the system currently used by local bodies at least once. For example, the “voluntary recall notification system” of the Tokyo Prefecture can serve as a pretty good example and reference, so we provide the URL below (NB: Only available in Japanese).
(*NB: Please be careful not to confuse it with the new one for the Food Labeling Act.)

Regarding the document“labeling following labeling standards related to food safety”

To conclude, I would like to summarize the content of “Labeling following labeling standards related to food safety” found in the document “Voluntary recall of foods which labeling does not follow the food labeling standard regarding food safety.” We have mentioned“Allergens, Expiration date, etc.” as general examples above, but concretely what exactly is written (in the official text) is: “Allergens, Expiration date, if heating is required for that food to be consumed safely, and other items which may greatly affect safety when consuming food, as specified by a Cabinet Office Ordinance.”

These are parts of the “items which greatly affect safety when consuming food.” (There are actually 15 items in total.)

  • (1) Name
  • (2) Storage method
  • (3) Expiration date or Best-before date
  • (4) Additives
  • (5) Allergens
  • (6) Labeling indication that L-phenylalanine compound is included
  • (7) Precautions when consuming food for specified health uses (FOSHU)
  • (8) Precautions when consuming food with function claims (FFC)
  • … omitted …

  • (15) Labeling items related to cautions for beef which is to be eaten raw as established in Article 40 of the food labeling standard

Source: Items which greatly affect safety when consuming food (CAA)

While the timing of implementation has not been decided yet, we do recommend to already have a check at the information and news related to this topic.

Reference:
Law to partially amend of the Food Labeling Act (Act No. 97 of 2018) (CAA)

February 2019