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Food labeling system regarding
"Health" in Japan

~Taiwan to ban the display of "health"
in a product name of general foods products from July 2022~

A news which attracts interests was announced in Taiwan in August this year. According to an announcement by Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA), it will be prohibited to display "health" in a product name of general food products. It will go into effect on July 1, 2022. I quote the body of the announcement below.

TFDA has announced that it will modify Article 4 and 6 of the "Regulations Governing of Criteria for the Label, Promotion and Advertisement of Foods and Food Products Identified as False, Exaggerated, Misleading or Having Medical Efficacy" to aim to prevent consumers from being misled with a healthier image of foods claiming as "health."
It stipulates that the word "health" must not be used as part of a product name for general foods to avoid being mistaken by consumers, except for health foods that have been inspected, registered or licensed after the modification.
TFDA will fine TWD 40,000 to 4 million for any products that do not meet the above standards considering as violating Article 28 and Article 45 of Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation, as it will be effective for products manufactured after July 1, 2022. Under Article 52 of the Act, the applicable packaged foods must be collected and modified within the time limit.

Source: Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (TFDA)

Taiwan has a "health food control system", and foods approved by TFDA (individual screening or standards inspections) are called "health foods (*)." I think that it is easy to understand to consider them as being corresponding to "JA:トクホ (Foods for Specified Health Uses)" in Japan. (*However, in Japan, health foods that are not categorized as Foods with Health Claims such as "Foods for Specified Health Uses" are called "So-Called "Health Foods")

And the general foods in Taiwan refers to "a food that is not approved as a health food (by TFDA)". By considering this announcement in comparison to the Japanese regulation, it would be that "health" must not be displayed in some of the product names of foods that are not Foods with Health Claims such as Foods for special dietary uses.

In Japan, there is no regulation on simply displaying "health" on foods at the moment. However, for general foods other than Foods with Health Claims it is prohibited to display "misleading names easily taken as Foods with Health Claims or the terms of the function of nutrients and of indicating that a specific health purpose can be expected." In other words, in Japan, it is not possible to use terms such as "health" or "function" in product names of general foods.

In order to make it easier to understand, I have organized the labeling standards for "health function" and "emphasis on nutrients" regarding Japanese labeling system related to "health". (*This time, it refers to only Food Labeling Standards. In an actual situation when labeling "health", it is necessary to pay attention to the rules such as Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations and Health Promotion Act.)

Labeling standards for "health functions" in Japan

The major classification of food names The medium classification of food names Necessity of inspections, etc., Labeling items etc.,
Foods with Health Claims Food for Specified Health Use (*1) Required (individually approved, standards-based) To indicate as the contents of labeling that has been granted permission, etc., ("the indication that the purpose of a particular health can be expected").
Foods with Function Claims Required (notifications- based) The contents of the report to the Secretary General of the Consumer Affairs Agency ("Functionally involved ingredients with scientific basis, and the functions of the said ingredients or of foods containing the ingredients") are to be displayed. However, "terms that claim ingredients other than functionally involved ingredients (*2)" and "terms that indicate the function of nutrients" are prohibited.
Foods with Nutrient Function Claims Unnecessary (standards- based) "Function of nutrients related to Foods with Nutrient Function Claims" specified in the Appended Table is to be indicated. However, "terms that indicate that a specific health purpose can be expected" etc., are prohibited.
General foods No classification name (so-called health foods) Unnecessary "Misleading names easily taken as Foods with Health Claims or the terms of the function of nutrients and of indicating that a specific health purpose can be expected." etc., is prohibited.
  • *1. It is positioned as a part of the separate system of "Foods for special dietary uses" (foods for the sick, etc.,).
  • *2. Cases where the following labeling "indication of the ability of a food to supplement nutrients" or "indicating the ability of a food to ensure the proper intake of certain nutrients/calories" is applied are excluded. Therefore, the term to claim the ingredients that are not set below is not allowed such as "Saccharides (mono-, di-, and poly-saccharides, sugar alcohol, others)".

Regarding labeling claims of nutrients in Japan

(Inspections, etc., are not required. It is necessary to store the basis material of the display value setting.)

Labeling items Classification of regulations
Indication of the ability of a food to supplement nutrients Indications that it is "high" (e.g. "high XX", "rich in XX", etc.,)
Indications that it is contained/present (e.g. "source of XX", "contains XX", etc.,)
Indications that it is fortified (e.g.: 30% extra XX, etc.,)
Indicating the ability of a food to ensure the proper intake of certain nutrients/calories Indications that it is not present/contained (e.g. "non XX", "zero XX", etc.,)
Indications that it is low (e.g. "low XX" or "less XX", etc.,)
Indications that it is reduced (e.g. "30% less etc.,)
Indication that no sugars are added - (e.g. "no sugars added", "no use of sugars ", etc.,), however, the standards of "Indications that it is not present/contained" are applied to the labeling such as "non-sugar", "sugarless".
Indication that no sodium is added - (e.g.: "no salt added", "no salt used", etc.,)

In Japan, as far as the standard is met even for general foods that do not require an inspection or notification as described above, it is possible to display functions of nutrients or claims on nutrients. However, when exporting such products to Taiwan, the term "health" cannot be indicated in a part of a product name unless a permit is obtained in Taiwan.

When exporting foods from Japan to other countries, and vice versa, if there are claims such as "health" or "nutrition" on the food, it is important to confirm the presence or absence of such related rules in advance. In addition, if you look at the labelling of "health" in a broader way, you can see that each country has its own rules and standards for labeling such as "organic", "gluten-free" and "XX not added". (There is no setting of the reference value except non-gluten rice flour in Japan, and there are no official labeling standards for gluten-free at present.)

When confirming these rules, it is a good idea to confirm not only permitted labeling examples and target ingredients (vitamins, minerals, etc.,) but also "prohibitions (e.g., However, XX cannot be displayed)".

This time I took up the news of Taiwan, but I think this trend can be seen in other countries as well. If you are dealing with foods with health-related labeling, I think it would be a good opportunity to take to look at trends in various countries.

Reference:
Food Labeling Standards
The guideline for Nutrition Facts labeling based on the Food Labeling Act

December 2020