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"The guideline of additive labeling for use of 'non-use'" released (Japan)

"The guideline of additive labeling for use of 'non-use'" was released by the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) on March 30, 2022. The main changes from the content of "[Material 2] Revised and reflected version of the guideline" (revised draft after inviting opinions) used at "The 8th discussion about the guideline of additive labeling for use of 'non-use' " (March 1, 2022)" are shown here (underlined in red).

(5) This guideline is a summary of specific items concerning non-use labeling of food additives that should be taken into consideration so as not to mislead consumers. They do not uniformly prohibit non-use labeling of food additives. This guideline can be used by food-related business operators, etc. to conduct self-inspection to determine whether or not any of their labels correspond to prohibited labeling items stipulated in Article 9 of Food Labeling Standards.

The rest is the same as the revised draft after inviting opinions, but I would like to summarize the outline of the guideline this time again.

Type items of labeling for non-use additives

Types 1 to 10 of non-use labeling are as follows. (Excerpt from the explanation and examples of the guideline.)

Type 1

Mere "not added" labeling

e.g. Out of mere "Not added" labels", what is not added is not clear to consumers
Type 2

Labeling terms not stipulated in Food Labeling Standards

e.g. Terms such as "artificial", "synthetic", "chemical", "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
e.g. 1 Soft drink labeled "No sorbic acid used"( use of sorbic acid in soft drinks violates the standards for use)

e.g. 2 Food with a name specified in Appended Table 5 of Food Labeling Standards, when a specific additive is used, labeling as "not added" or "non-use" of additives that fall outside the definition of Appended Table 3 of the Standards
Type 4

Labeling on foods with food additives having same function / similar function 
e.g. 1 Labeling "No preservatives used" on foods with food additives other than preservatives for enhancing shelf life

e.g. 2 Labeling "No XX colour" used (XX colour is listed in the Designated additive colouring list in Japan ) on food with Existing additives colouring (listed in natural colouring list in Japan)
 (Claims must not be used if an additive has been replaced by another one that gives the food an equivalent characteristic except that this fact is conspicuously stated to the same degree in the claim).
Type 5

Labeling on foods with ingredients having same function / similar function
e.g. 1 Labeling "no seasonings as additives used" on foods with extracts containing amino acids as an (non-additive) ingredient
e.g. 2 Labeling "no emulsifier used" on foods made from highly processed ingredients with emulsifying properties

(Substituting with a substance that is considered to lose its original scientific identity as a food by extracting only specific component from the food is different from substituting with a substance that is considered as food in terms of social norms.) In the case where "non-use" labeling is present and indications of ingredients with the same function / similar function are not present, there is a risk of misleading about the content as consumers may misunderstand that the function of the food is due to the function of another food.
Type 6

Labeling associating with health and safety
e.g. 1 Labeling "not added" or "non-use" for being good for health

e.g. 2 Labeling "not added" or "non-use" for being safe
Type 7

Labeling associating with something other than health and safety
e.g. 1 Labeling "not added " or "non-use" for good tastes
(The case where a causal link between the reason for the good taste and the absence of food additives cannot be explained)
e.g.2 Without mentioning "after opening the package," the label states, "No preservatives used, so please consume as soon as possible"
(When the indication gives an impression that the food must be consumed earlier than its best before date.)
e.g. 3 Labeling "no colouring used" as the reason for the possibility of discolouration of the product

(The case where no explanation can be given as to the relationship between the discolouration and the use of colouring)
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"

e.g. 2 Labeling "non-use of the additive" on foods in which use of the certain additive is uncommon among similar products and in which use of it is not expected by consumers such as
-use of preservatives in mineral water
-use of colouring in mineral water
,etc.
Type 9

Labeling on food with a processing aid or carry-over (or cannot be confirmed not to be used)
e.g. 1 Labeling "No preservatives used" on a final product with a part of ingredients used containing preservative
e.g. 2 Labeling "not added" or "non-use" with the indication that the verification of labeling is based only on the product manufacturer’s own manufacturing process because the whole manufacturing process of each ingredient cannot be confirmed

(As for labeling of food additives, checking the use of the food additives is needed even in manufacturing and processing processes of respective ingredients of the food. There is a risk of misleading the content if the labeling, which is an indication even outside the collective labeling frame, is not based on the results of verification. )
Type 10

Excessive claims
e.g. 1 Labeling "non-use of XX" in prominent colour on many places of a package of a product
e.g. 2 Labeling "Not added" in a big font beside "Preservative, colouring" in a small size on foods with additives other than preservative and colouring used

(Fonts, sizes, colours, terms, etc. that are excessively emphasized in comparison with the labeling in the collective labeling frame. When combined with other type items, it may promote misleading by the other type items.)

At the same time, Food Labeling Standard Q & A (Revision of Process-90 and Deletion of Process- 232) related to the non-use labeling of additives has also been revised.

[Revision] (Process-90) Is it allowed to indicate that food additives are not used, such as "additives are not used at all" or "XX not added" on labeling?

(Answer)

  1. We believe that it is necessary to give careful attention to labeling so as not to mislead consumers.
  2. For example, (omitted)
  3. Points to note in order not to mislead consumers are summarized in the attached "the guideline of additive labeling for use of 'non-use'".
[Deleted] (Process -232) Is it allowed to indicate that food additives are not used for a substance other than sugars or salt (sodium) if it is true?

Upcoming schedules

As a review of the labeling, a transitional period of approximately two years (until the end of March 2024) is indicated. In addition, by the application of the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations, etc. based on the guidelines, a reduction in non-use labeling is also expected for non-use labeling on websites, advertisements, and other items other than containers and packaging. (Fair Competition Code is also expected to be reviewed.)
As stated in the opinions received on the public comments, "it is difficult to list every example" and "judged as a whole on a case-by-case basis", the guideline is not intended to provide specific examples, but is positioned as an interpretation of the prohibition on labeling. In many cases, it may be difficult to make a judgment when reviewing labeling, but in such cases, we believe it is important to confirm the issues and solutions of non-use labeling by reading the materials by the discussion of the guideline.

May 2022