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About the flexible operation of the Food Labeling Standards and the Rice Traceability Act in response to the shortage of supplies of imported ingredients from China due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection

On March 3, 2020, the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) jointly published the announcement “About the flexible operation of the Food Labeling Standards based on the Food Labeling Act in response to the shortage of supplies of imported ingredients from China due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection” In addition, on March 9th, they published the announcement "About the flexible operation of the Rice Traceability Act in response to the supply shortage of imported ingredients from China due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection."

[ Background ]

At present, due to the spread of the new coronavirus infection in China, a smooth and proper distribution of products that used to inform on their label and package that they contain ingredients (rice, other) from the PRC (at the attention of general consumers and in accordance with the rules) become hindered as food businesses cannot immediately reflect - on these labeling - the changes in materials caused by the shortage in the supply of ingredients imported from this country.
Such businesses are now considering to source these ingredients from countries other than China, and not being able to update the label accordingly in time makes the production of such goods difficult.

[ Purpose ]

To secure a production system that provides a stable supply of food that meets the general consumers’ needs under the current situation where the spread of the new coronavirus infection affects social and economic activities.

Outline of the Notification (Food Labeling Standards)

  • Regarding products of which the country of origin of ingredients is China, even if there is a discrepancy between the country of origin of ingredients on labels as being made in China and the country of origin of the actually used ingredients , the Food Labeling Standards will be applied flexibly provided that the appropriate information on the proper country of origin of ingredients of the product is informed to the general consumers through notices in stores, company posts on website, etc.
  • However, this operation is intended to smooth the production and distribution of food, and strict crackdowns will still be applied to malicious violations that deceive consumers in the same way as usual.

Outline of the Notification (Rice Traceability Act)

  • Regarding products (*1) for which China is displayed as the place of origin, even if there is a discrepancy between the place of origin of ingredients on labels as being made in China and the place of origin of the actually used ingredients , the provision of Article 8 of the Rice Traceability Act (*2). will be applied flexibly provided that appropriate information on the proper place of origin for ingredients of the product is informed to general consumers through notices in stores, company posts on website, etc.
  • However, this operation is intended to facilitate the production and distribution of rice, etc. and strict crackdowns will still be applied to malicious violations that deceive consumers in the same way as usual.

(*1) Among the foods and beverages listed in Article 1 of the Rice Traceability Act Enforcement Order, products which indicate that the country of production is “China” on labeling on the container or package excluding sake, single-distilled shochu, mirin, and rice cake

(*2) "Act on the Recording of Information of Transactions of Rice, etc. and Communication of Information of the Country of Origin"

For details, see the following page. As of the writing of this report (March 31, 2020), there is only one country targeted, that is "China".

Reference: CAA "Notice on Food Labeling"

In addition, the MAFF website has published "Basic Guidelines for Response to Outbreaks of New Coronavirus Infections in Food Industry Business Operators and Business Continuity". In the guideline the basic points when you try to continue your business are described from the viewpoint of ensuring a stable food supply, assuming the prevention of the spread of infection. It is advisable to also check this aspect.

Reference: MAFF "Guidelines on Response and Business Continuity in the Case of Outbreak of New Coronavirus Infections"

[April 13, 2020, postscript]

On April 10, 2020, the Consumer Affairs Agency(CAA) issued a new notice.
The previous notification that China was the sole target country (dated March 3&9, 2020) has been abolished.
The target labeling items have been newly expanded without any specific target countries.

1) Regarding a flexible operation of the Food Labeling Standards based on the Food Labeling Act following the spread of the new coronavirus infection

Except for allergens, expiration dates, and whether heating is required for a safe consumption of foods and other matters which have a significant impact on the safety of consuming foods in Article 1 of the Cabinet Office Ordinance (No. 11 of 2015), in Article 6, Paragraph 8 of the Food Labeling Act" , even if there is a discrepancy between actually used ingredients and the labeling on containers and packaging based on the Food Labeling Standards in the items such as ingredients, etc., countries of origin of ingredients or the amount of nutrition, the crackdowns for it may be temporally suspended provided that appropriate information on the ingredients, etc. of products are informed to general consumers through notices in stores, company posts on website, etc. in a timely manner.

2) Regarding a flexible operation of the Rice Traceability Act following the spread of the new coronavirus infection

Even if there is a discrepancy of place of origin between actually used ingredients and the labeling on container or packaging, the crackdowns for it may be temporally suspended provided that appropriate information on the place of origin are informed to general consumers through notices in stores, company posts on website, etc. in a timely manner.

3) Regarding the operation of labeling for the manufacturing factories, etc. and Manufacturer Identification Codes that have been affected by the spread of the new coronavirus infection

1. Regarding the operation of labeling for the manufacturing factories, etc. In the case of outsourcing the production or process of food to other factories, etc., even if the labeling of factories on the container or packaging based on Article 3 of the Food labeling Standards is different from the actual factory, etc., such discrepancy may be approved as an exemption for the handling of labeling for the time being provided that the notification is made using the attached notification form (Form No. 1).
2. Regarding the operation of labeling of the Manufacturer Identification Codes Even if the factory indicated by Manufacturer Identification Codes on the container and packaging based on Article 3 of the Food Labeling Standards is different from the actual factory, the Manufacturer Identification Codes can be used for other factories than the actual factory as an exemption for the handling of labeling for the time being provided that the notification is made using the attached notification form (Form No. 2&3).

Please check each notification for details.

Source:
Regarding a flexible operation of the Food Labeling Standards based on the Food Labeling Act following the spread of the new coronavirus infection (CAA)
Regarding a flexible operation of the Rice Traceability Act following the spread of the new coronavirus infection (CAA) Regarding the operation of the manufacturing factories, etc. and Manufacturer Identification Codes following the spread of the new coronavirus infection (CAA)

May 2020