Transition period to new Food Labeling Standards for Japan is coming to the end

Today we published a guest post from our friends from Osaka, Label Bank ! (see link at the end of the article for more info)

Although many products complying with the new food labelling standards (hereafter: FLS) have arrived on the Japanese shelves since their implementation on April 2015, a transitional period of 5 years has also been given (till 31 March 2020) during which the labeling of processed food and additives according to the old FLS is still allowed, however depending on the purpose of the product:

General use (B2C): products manufactured, processed or imported to Japan by 31 March 2020
Business use (B2B): products sold by 31 March 2020

Furthermore, based on the “Summary of the Food Labeling Standards” issued by the Consumer Affairs Agency, the main changing points in the new FLS are as listed here:

1 Standardization of the classification between processed food and perishable food: Now follows the line of thinking of the previous JAS law (ex: even simply processed food like dried fruits are classified as “processed”)

2 Amendment of rules regarding the use of Manufacturer Identification Codes: Which strictly concern products that are produced in two factories or more

3 Amendment of rules regarding allergens: Changes in the terminology/symbols used. Writing all allergens separately is now the standard way to proceed (gathering allergens labeling is still allowed but only in certain specific case)

4 Labeling of a nutrition facts panel is now mandatory: For all processed food and additives aimed at consumers, in addition to  a couple of adjustments to the labeling rules themselves (ex: “Sodium” item changed to “Salt equivalent”, etc.).

5 Amendment of rules regarding Nutrient Content Claims with new rules for claims like “No use of sugar”, and an update in the nutrient’s standard values (ex: in the requirements to indicate an increase or decrease in nutrients content compared to other products, or for labeling stating that the product can fulfill certain nutrients needs)

6 Change of rules regarding the Foods with Nutrient Function Claims system: New nutrients have been added (n-3 fatty acid, vitamin K and potassium). Perishable foods can now be targets of this labeling system.

7 Change of rules regarding the labeling of the ingredients list: Rules for labeling according to individual food categories has changed (ex: for “breads”, ingredients and additives must now be separated)

8 Amendment of rules regarding labeling of additives for sales: The labeling items “name and address of the person in charge of labeling” and “net weight (for Additives aimed at general consumers)” are now mandatory

9 Regulation of parts of the labeling rules that used to only be stated in notifications: The labeling of measures concerning food poisoning (fugu, botulism, etc.) is now mandatory, and the standard values for nutrients labeling have been summarized/regulated.

10 Amendment of the labeling layout: labeling items pertaining to safety matters cannot be omitted anymore, no matter how small the labeling area is, and the classification of ingredients and additives now should be clear on the label.

In addition to the mandatory labeling content (of which the above is a general overview), there have been changes in the labeling claims standards also.

On a side note, it should be noted that some of the standards are to be found outside the FLS: it is essential to also check the complementary documents “regarding food labeling standards”/”Food labeling Standards Q&A”.

Overall, we strongly recommend to carefully check the labeling of your food products aimed at Japan during the remaining period and update as necessary!

Reference:

Summary of the food Labeling Standard, in Japanese (食品表示基準の概要)

https://www.caa.go.jp/policies/policy/food_labeling/food_labeling_act/pdf/150331_kijyun-gaiyo.pdf

More info about the changes, in English:

https://label-bank.com/newsletter/issues/201904_2.html

More about Label bank:

Label bank is company specialized in all services (formulation and label review, development, regulatory consulting, databases) related to the labeling of food product for the Japanese market.

Learn more here! https://label-bank.com/

Japan – Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO ‘evocation’ case

In light of the next application of the EU-Japan free trade agreement, this Q&A between a Member of the EU Parliament (MEP) and the EU Commission, raise a curious case of evocation of a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin, recognized under Reg. EU 1151/2012).

Question for written answer E-001489-19 – 25th March 2019

The Consortium for the Protection of Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO, acting in its watchdog capacity, is speaking out against a Tokyo-based cheese factory producing cow’s milk mozzarella marketed under the label ‘Mu Mu Mozzarella Tokyo Dop’, which, together with the buffalo’s head company logo, manifestly brings to mind Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO.

The EU-Japan trade agreement, which entered into force on 1 February 2019, ought to make for greater protection of intellectual property rights, and that includes automatic recognition of PGIs and PDOs registered in the EU.

1. Does the Commission consider the above facts to amount to a clear case of ‘evocation’ — according to the definition given in several Court of Justice rulings — of ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO’?

2. Does the EU-Japan trade agreement explicitly call for Japan to take administrative measures in response to complaints about product labelling, especially when this is likely to mislead consumers?

3. What steps can the Commission take within its specific area of responsibility to ensure that the ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana’ PDO is legally protected on the Japanese market in accordance with the EU-Japan trade agreement?

(1) Judgments of 4 March 1999, Cambozola, C-87/97, EU:C:1999:115, paragraph 25; 26 February 2008, Commission v Germany, C-132/05, EU:C:2008:117, paragraph 44; and 21 January 2016, Verlados, C-75/15, EU:C:2016:35, paragraph 21.

Answer given by Mr Hogan on behalf of the European Commission

The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) ensures the protection in the territory of Japan of the EU geographical indications (GIs) listed in its Annex 14-B. The Italian GI ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana’ is listed in Annex 14-B and thus protected in Japan under the EPA since 1 February 2019.

SubSection 3 of Chapter 14 of the EPA applies to the recognition and protection of GIs for agricultural products, which originate in the EU, and contains a prohibition to mislead the Japanese consumer as to the true origin of products. Thus, the EU GI in question referred to by the Honourable Member is protected against potential evocation in Japan. Article 14.28 provides administrative enforcement of the protection of GIs listed in Annex 14-B.

The Commission has been made aware of the presence on the Japanese market of the product labelled ‘Mu Mu Mozzarella’ and is currently investigating and making inquiries on this particular matter with a view to exhaustively and appropriately assess the factual and legal elements.

In case an infringement is identified, it will take all necessary actions to ensure the respect of obligations under the EPA by the Japanese authorities.

In my opinion from this answer 3 key facts emerge:

  1. the EU understanding of the concept of evocation is very broad and includes any similarity in words, pictorials or names. In this sense also the recent case of the Court of Justice about Queso Manchego PDO and the image of Don Quixote de La Mancha on a “non-PDO” cheese from Spain (C-614/17);
  2. despite the heavy protection granted to GIs (geographical indications) in Europe, in third countries they are mostly treated as common trademarks. Therefore, the only way to contrast misleading products in such countries is administrative cooperation;
  3. despite the common opinion, to agree on a list of protected GIs is possibly the best viable approach at the moment. Especially when two strong economies are negotiating, will be an utopia to impose – from the EU side – the complete recognition of hundreds of GIs, potentially conflicting with local trademarks. While on the contrary, agree on a list of protected ones allow the EU to have solid basis to activate the administrative cooperation and eventually re-negotiate the agreement at a later stage.

(Source: EU Parliament)

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND 100″ SECONDS FOOD NEWS, PLEASE VISIT ALSO OUR NEW YOUTUBE CHANNEL