A new food labeling system started this April. With this system food suppliers can display the health benefits of food – including fresh food – without government approval. With this, manufacturers can display what part of the body a product has a beneficial effect on with phrases like, “This strengthens bones” or “This supports the function of veins.” For consumers, it becomes easier to understand the special qualities of each different type of food. Up to now, it’s only been possible to display “healthy food” for a specific category on so called tokuho (food for specified health uses) products. Since the government is strict in its examination of tokuho products, it can take several years to gain this accreditation. With the new system, by submitting research results or essays proving the scientific validity of their claims to the Consumer Affairs Agency, manufacturers can sell products displaying a message about the beneficial effects 60 days later. These reports are displayed on the agency’s website. If some problems arise after the sale, manufacturers are obliged to recall the food or face a penalty. Up until now there have been some food products about which questionable health benefits were written. From now on, it seems that food products that display unverified claims will disappear from the market. This system was created as a part of the Abenomics growth strategy. The scheme has proved effective in Hokkaido where it was launched independently a year ago, ahead of the national government. The average sales of food marked as having beneficial effects increased by about 30 percent. At present, including tokuho foods, the health food market is worth about two trillion yen. By introducing this new system it is predicted that the market will expand to be worth five trillion yen in ten years.
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