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The revised draft of the guideline of "non-use" additive labeling released after inviting comments (Japan)

On March 1, 2022, the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) released the revised "the guideline of additive labeling for use of ‘non-use’"(draft) after inviting comments (public comments) at the discussion about the guidelines of additive labeling for use of "non-use". Some points have been changed since the draft proposal for the request for comments, so we would like to summarize them here.

Contents of the received comments

The draft was opened for comment on December 22, 2021, and closed on January 21, 2022. The total number of comments received was 758. A breakdown of the comments is also available in the document ("comments in Public Comments"). The category with the most comments was "Types (376 comments)," followed by "overall guidelines (208 comments) of the categories of "overall guidelines," "scope of application of guidelines," "Types," "dissemination/enlightenment," "review period of the labeling," and "others". Among "Types", the one with the most comments was "Type 5: Labeling on foods with ingredients having same function / similar function (68 comments)", followed by "Type 10: Excessive claims (50 comments)," and then "Type 4: Labeling on foods with food additives having same function / similar function (47 comments) and then "Type 2: Labeling terms not stipulated in Food Labeling Standards (46 comments)".

Major changes in the revised draft after inviting comments

The discussion group has published a document titled "Revised Version of the Guidelines with strikethrough" which clearly shows the revisions made to the draft guidelines at the time of the request for comments. The following is an excerpt of the changes that may have an impact on actual label creation work.
(Among text in red, underlines were newly added and cross-out text was deleted.)

  Revision after inviting comments
Background and purpose This guideline can be used by food-related businesses, etc. to conduct self-inspection to determine whether or not they are subject to prohibited labeling items stipulated in Article 9 of the Food Labeling Standards.
Type 1: Mere "not added"; labeling e.g. Labeling merely "no added" without indicating what is not added.
Type 2: Labeling terms not stipulated in Food Labeling Standards e.g. Terms such as "artificial", "synthetic", "chemical seasoning", "natural", etc. are used along with "not added" or "non-use" such as "No artificial sweeteners", etc.
Type 3: Labeling on foods with use of additives not permitted by the regulation - (Minor corrections only)
Type 4: Labeling on foods with food additives having same function / similar function

- When the difference between a food additive with non-use label and the other food additives with the same or similar function contained in the food is not clear from the labeling.

e.g. 2: Labeling "No synthetic colour"; "No XX colour used"; (XX colour is listed in the D esignated additive colouring list in Japan) on food with Existing additives colouring (listed in natural colouring list in Japan)
Type 5: Labeling on foods with ingredients having same function / similar function e.g. 1 Labeling "No chemical seasonings seasoning as additives used"; on foods with extracts containing amino acids as an (non-additive) ingredient.
Type 6: Labeling associated with health and safety - (Minor corrections only)
Type 7: Labeling associated with something other than health and safety e.g. 2: Without mentioning "after opening the package," the label states, "No preservatives used, so please consume as soon as possible.
Type 8: Labeling on foods with use of additives not expected e.g. 1: A food product of the same type that is generally free of colouring and has the original colouring of the food is labeled as "No colouring used";.
Type 9: Labeling on food with a processing aid or carry-over (or cannot be confirmed not to be used) -  (Minor corrections only)
Type 10: Excessive claims e.g. 1:  Labeling "non-use of XX"; in excessively prominent colour on many places of  a package of a product
Review of labeling based on the guidelines

- During the next two years (until the end of March 2024), it is required to review the labeling as necessary appropriately.

- Although it will be unavoidable that processed foods manufactured and sold during this period will be distributed with the labeling before the revision, it is desirable to review the labeling of processed foods as soon as possible, even if it is less than two years.

In Type 4 and 5, which have most comments as public comments, and Type 10 of "Views on comments", which has an impact on these types, the following answers were often used. Since it is expected to be difficult to list specific examples such as "XX case falls under Type", self-inspection will be left to the judgment of each business operator.

"Since the accuracy of labeling is considered to be important in consumers' product selection, this guideline provides an interpretation of prohibited labeling items as stipulated in Article 9 of Food Labeling Standards, in order to prevent consumers from selecting products based on misleading or contradictory labeling regarding the non-use of food additives."

"Article 9 of Food Labeling Standards does not give any stipulations in detail what kind of labeling provides accurate information to consumers, and what kind of labeling misleads consumers. Since the types of non-use labeling of food additives on food products are diverse, it is difficult to enumerate every example."

"This guideline is newly formulated as an indicator to determine whether or not a label on product falls under prohibited labeling items stipulated in Article 9 of Food Labeling Standards."

"In addition, whether or not the labeling of non-use of food additives falls under the prohibited labeling items stipulated in Article 9 of Food Labeling Standards shall be judged not only based on the case that each Type is considered to have a high possibility of falling under the prohibition of labeling, but also as a whole on a case-by-case basis based on the nature of the product, knowledge level of general consumers, actual conditions of transactions, labeling methods, and contents subject to labeling."

Future schedules

The official guidelines are expected to be announced by March 2022. After that, labeling is expected to be reviewed by the end of March 2024. It is recommended that those who handle products with the relevant labeling read through the draft guidelines and other materials of the discussion in advance.

April 2022