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About the guidelines of additive labeling for use of "non-use" (Japan)

The 1st "discussion about the guidelines of additive labeling for use of "non-use" was held on March 4, 2021. The following points will be discussed using actual labeling as examples as well as identifying and classifying actual situations of additive labeling for use of "non-use" based on the opinions of the Study Group on the Labeling System for food additives held in 2019.

Details to be discussed

  1. Content of the guidelines
    1. Target of the guidelines
    2. Types of non-use labeling: Those that are likely to be misleading and those that are not
    3. Labeling methods that are not misleading
    4. Grace period (transitional period) for the guidelines
  2. Others, Consideration of revising the Food Labeling Standards Q&A (Processing-90), etc.

Current issues

Interpretation for non-use labeling of food additives in the current Food Labeling Standards is described in the Food Labeling Standard Q&A (Processing-90), (2) shown above.

(Process-90) Is it allowed to write "additives are not used at all" or "not-added" on labeling?

(Answer)

  1. In case the same product category generally uses additives, but the product does not use any, it is possible to indicate that no additive has been used on the label.
    However, even though the use of processing aids or carry-overs doesn’t require their display on the label, it is not allowed to label it as a "non-use" product.
    Also, indicating "not-added" only on the label does not clearly show what wasn’t added. Therefore, it is desirable to indicate a specific name.
  2. In addition, in case the same category of product is generally free of additives in the first place, it is inappropriate to indicate that no additives have been used on the label.

Since additives that fall under the category of processing aids or carry-overs are not required to be labeled, even if they are used, they will not be labeled. Therefore, their indications do not appear on the label, and we believe that there is some possibility that the labeling of "non-use of additives" may mislead consumers into believing that the product is totally free from additives.

The followings are specified in the Food Labeling Standards, Article 9, which indicate current prohibited labeling items (excerpt)

1) Terms which mislead people into believing that the product is significantly better or more advantageous than it is in reality

2) Terms which contradict the content of items to be written on labeling stipulated in Article 3 and 4

13) Other characters, pictures, photographs, etc. used for labeling and which mislead people about the content

According to these prohibited labeling items, it falls under prohibited labeling items (Food Labeling Standards Q &A (Processing-282) ) to indicate "additives not added" on processed foods in which additives are used. However, whether or not "Representations Which Misleadingly Give Significantly Superior and Significantly More Advantageous Images to Goods or Services" is applied to such claims has been judged as a whole on a case-by-case basis, based on the nature of the product, the level of knowledge of ordinary consumers, the actual conditions of the transaction, the method of labeling, and the content of the product for the labeling, etc.

Future schedules

It is difficult to categorize and describe in the guidelines what is judged on a case-by-case basis. The following (draft) schedule has been published.

March, 2021



1st

  • About recapitulation of the discussion on additive labeling for use of "non-use"
  • Future plan to proceed the discussion

2nd

  • Interview with stakeholders (Consumers, business operators, etc.)

3rd or later

  • Consideration based on the interviews and survey results
  • Consideration for the compilation of the guidelines
  • Conducting public comments and reflecting them in the draft guidelines
March, 2022 Preparation and publication of guidelines and revision of related Q&A

Since the guidelines are the specifications of Food Labeling Standards, labeling on the container and packaging is targeted. The establishment of the guidelines is expected to have the effect of reducing the number of non-use labels which lead to consumer misunderstanding by applying "revising existing Fair Competition Codes or establishing new ones" and "providing guidance on advertising, etc." as well as the application of the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations with Reference to the guidelines.

A grace period (transitional period) will be considered in the future. For those operators who currently use labels such as "preservatives not added", "non-use of additives", etc. on containers and packaging of the current products, it would be a good opportunity to reevaluate the labeling.

June 2021