Food Scares in Japan: Government Steps Up Regulations on Food Safety

Japan’s recent food-related scares have prompted the Japanese government to take more serious measures in addressing the country’s food safety. Last year, Snow Brand Food Products Co., was involved in highly publicized scandals involving the distribution of foreign meats labeled as domestic meat during the mad cow disease scare, as well as contaminated milk products leading to the death of one person. The Acting Manager of the Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union (JCCU), Akiko Yamauchi, commented that government regulations related to food safety have failed to keep up with today’s technology and science. Since then, the government has been working on revising the system that deals with Japan’s food safety.

Recently, the Japanese government announced the establishment of the Food Safety Commission (FSC) with the Cabinet Office. The FSC will conduct food-safety risk assessment and communication. The government is also considering a crisis management system in order to respond to food safety emergencies and to expedite submission of legislation to the Diet. However, risk management will still be under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW).

There are fears, however, that the new safety measures will be used to discriminate against foreign food products. Yoshikuni Sugiyama, a business commentator with the Yomiuri Shimbun wrote, every time a new product is found problematic in terms of health considerations, a large majority of the Japanese public will certainly throw its support behind import restrictions.