Counterfeiting Japanese GI food products detected abroad

TOKYO, March 27 — Japanese agricultural brand names are being maliciously used in overseas food markets, an investigation by the agriculture ministry has found.

The ministry conducted a year-long investigation to see if there is continuing misuse and counterfeiting at global online shopping sites that mislead consumers on the origin of 48 food products from 46 regions protected by Japan’s geographical indications (GIs).

The findings revealed that there were more than 600 counterfeit food products that were produced abroad and falsely labeled with Japanese GIs.

For example, there were Chinese-grown “Ichida Gaki,” a brand of persimmon produced in Iida, Nagano prefecture, and Malaysian-produced “Kishu Ume,” plums that are named after Wakayama prefecture’s old title, Kishu.

The ministry also found that the leading counterfeit food producers were from China, producing products including “Nishio Macha”, “Kobe Beef” and “Matsusaka Beef”.

In July through October 2017, the ministry also conducted investigations to see if unregistered GIs, yet well-known Japanese brand names are used in China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Based on the information that the investigators have gathered so far, there were Vietnamese-produced “Koshihikari” brands of rice and Thailand-grown “Muskmelon”.

The infringement of GI products and foodstuffs represents a substantial loss of revenue for producers, while consumer confidence for these products labeled as high quality is undermined, experts say.

So, the Japanese government has stepped up efforts to ensure its GIs are protected under bilateral trade agreements.

Once a product gets GI status abroad, it would be illegal for someone outside that region to make and sell a similar product under that name.

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