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Regarding "Revision of food labeling system for brown rice and milled rice (draft)" along with the review of agricultural product inspection standards

The food labeling system for brown rice and milled rice is expected to be revised. Public comments on the subject were solicited from October 14th to November 15th, 2020. It was also deliberated by the Consumer Commission Food Labeling Section Meeting on October 27th and November 18th. I would like to summarize the main revisions, their background, and future plans as follows.

Main points of revision

  1. Regarding the labeling of brown rice and milled rice, it is possible to indicate a place of origin, variety and year of harvest on only those certificated by agricultural product inspection at present, however, it will be able to label a place of origin, variety, year of harvest even on those not certificated by agricultural product inspection.
  2. To require to store materials indicating reasonable ground of a place of origin, variety, and year of harvest, etc.,
  3. To enable to label the method to confirm the grounds of labeling items such as a place of origin, variety, year of harvest, etc.,

Reference: "Regarding Soliciting Opinions on Partial Amendment draft of Food Labeling Standards (Consumer Affairs Agency) October 14, 2020"

The direct background is that "review of agricultural product inspection standards" is targeted in Regulatory Reform Implementation Plan (Cabinet approval on July 17, 2020), and it is accordingly decided to review the food labeling system that requires agricultural product inspection for brown rice and milled rice.
Regulatory Reform Implementation Plan was discussed by " Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Working Group of Regulatory Reform Promotion Council" on the basis of the status of "review of agricultural product standards and inspections" in the "Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Program (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)" that has been promoted since 2016, and "the opinions related to standards and inspections of agricultural products (rice)" (the public interest incorporated association, Japan Agricultural Corporations Association), etc., submitted in January 2020.

Regulatory Reform Implementation Plan (Cabinet approval on July 17, 2nd, 2020) (excerpt)

Food labeling such as a place of origin, variety, year of harvest of rice
In addition to a place of origin, which is mandatory labeling for both inspected rice and uninspected rice according to Food Labeling Standards, certain factual information such as variety, year of harvest, producer's name, a name of inspector and a person who confirm rice's quality, etc., are allowed to be labeled voluntarily. (e.g. Quality confirmation by JA XX (registered inspection organization's name), quality confirmation XX rice (farmer's name).
For those that have already been inspected for agricultural products, it will be possible to indicate "by the agricultural product inspection certificate", and for the agricultural products which are not inspected, the indication that “it is not certificated by agricultural product inspection" will not be obligatory. In addition, in order to prevent the distribution of rice labeled with uncertain evidence and to avoid undermining consumers'trust, necessary measures such as inspection and storage method of record related to inspections and transactions will be secured by Food Labeling Standards, etc., and their operations.
The conclusions are to be acquired on the above, taking the opinions of the Consumer Commission into account.

Difference between the current regulation and revision bill

The Consumer Affairs Agency's material is easy to understand for comparison with the current regulation, so I will quote it here.

Regarding revision of labeling related to brown rice and milled rice

Based on Regulatory Reform Implementation Plan,
  1. it is possible to label a place of origin, variety and year of harvest even for those not certificated by agricultural product inspection.
  2. On the other hand, materials indicating a place of origin, variety and year of harvest are required to be stored in order to prevent the distribution of rice labeled based on uncertain evidence and to avoid undermining consumers' trust,
  3. it enables to label a confirming method of reasonable grounds such as agricultural products inspection certificate, etc., for labeling items,
  4. Article 23 of the Standards and Appended Table 24 and Appendix Form 4 are to be revised since such revision enables the appropriate information when consumers select foods, such as producer's name, etc., to be indicated in a frame.

Quote: Partial Amendment of Food Labeling Standards October, 2020 (Consumer Affairs Agency Food Labeling Planning Division)

Changes in labeling items for single-ingredient rice based on the amendment of Food Labeling Standards

(the translation for reference)

Quote: Supplementary explanatory material November, 2020 Consumer Affairs Agency Food Labeling Planning Division

Future schedules

After consultation and report by the Consumer Commission Food Labeling Section Meeting, it is planned to be promulgated by March 31, 2021 and come into effect on July 1, 2021. Rice harvested in 2021 will be able to be labeled according to the revised regulations. Those who handle food products contained rice as their main ingredient, as well as brown rice and milled rice themselves, should check the revised points.

Reference:
The 61st Food Labeling Section Meeting

January 2020