The Upper House passed a new food labeling bill on Friday, June 21, to unify overlapping regulations on the safety and quality of food products in Japan and make food labeling easier to understand. Although the new law will not substantially change the scope of food labeling requirements, it will provide stricter administrative orders and sanctions for violating the law. The new labeling rules are expected to be introduced in April 2015 at the earliest.
Currently, food labeling requirements are determined by three laws – the Food Sanitation Act, the JAS (Japanese Agricultural Standard) Law and the Health Promotion Act – but the laws have caused confusion for consumers, as they often feature the same labeling requirements using different terminology. The Consumer Affairs Agency plans to create unified terminology and standards for food products including genetically modified food products before the new law takes effect.
Under the new law, nutritional labeling on all pre-packaged processed food, which is voluntary under the current regulations, will be made mandatory in principle. A grace period of five years will be given for companies to comply with the new law after implementation. A company not complying with the law will be liable for a fine of up to 300 million yen under the new law, up from 100 million under the existing laws.
(June 22, 2013)