1. Japan’s import policies.
Confirm that your exported goods are allowed to be exported to Japan. Nuts (e.g. cashew nuts, soybeans, peanuts, walnuts, sesame,…) and juice are considered Medical related food under the Pharmaceutical Law as well as fresh fruits are often restricted from import or require special requirements. For example, some fresh fruits and vegetables from the United States are not exported to Japan, including: apricots, bell peppers, eggplants, peaches, pears, turnips, sweet potatoes,…
If fresh fruits and vegetables are eligible for export to Japan, the Phytosanitary Certificate must accompany shipments (Provide us or your Customs Agent other details of the product to accurately determine phytosanitary requirements when importing into Japan). Frozen fruits and vegetables allowed to be imported by the Japanese government must be fresh (must not be cooked before freezing).
2. Check the compliance with Japanese legislation of Food Standards.
Agrochemical residues for fresh fruits are a problem, due to the difference in tolerance levels between Japan and other countries, so make sure any agrochemical residues are within the maximum allowable limit (MRL) since the MRL is subject to change frequently. There are 74 substances exempt from the MRL and 20 substances banned from use (i.e. zero tolerance). For substance combinations in processed foods that do not have a specific or temporary MRL regulation, a homogeneous tolerance of 0.01 parts per million (ppm) applies as the maximum allowable limit.
Plant quarantine stations will evaluate based on the relative ratio of the ingredients to the finished product. Samples found to contain agrochemical residues in excess of an established MRL are considered to be in violation of the Food Sanitation Act and the goods will be banned from import into Japan. Exporters should therefore have a specific blend formulation according to the proportion of ingredients involved (in case proof is required) and apply for a Certificate of Agrochemical Residue Analysis to reduce risk of excessive detection of MRL at port of import.
– Food additives as defined in the Food Hygiene Act are substances that are used by adding, mixing or permeating food and beverages or by various methods during processing / manufacturing support or for food preservation / antimicrobial purposes. They also include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, flavors (excluding natural flavoring agents), artificial colors (chemical names and international color index numbers must be declared), natural colors (must be described) and anti-mold agents for post-harvest products (chemical names, content in ppm must be declared).
MHLW (Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) only allows food additives that are rated safe for use in food and beverages. Food additive regulations are very strict (Japanese consumers often dislike food additives). In many specific cases, Japan’s standards for using food additives are stricter (lower tolerance levels) than those of the United States.
The MHLW defines standards, tolerances, concentrations used, specifications and / or limits on the extent to which a food additive can be used (e.g. preservatives that are allowed to a certain degree but may not be permitted in Mayonnaise storage) Therefore make sure all the food additives in your product meet the permitted standards, if it is not listed or does not meet the approved standards: you should consider adjust the recipe to mix the proportion of related ingredients.
– Infection in the natural environment: specific objects of fruits and vegetables include pathogenic microorganisms (e.g. E. Coli O26, O103, O111, O157, Listeria,…), mercury lead, arsenic, mycotoxins, cyanides, crustacean toxins, toxic molds, methanol,… or food-grade degradation / degrading microorganisms may occur during food transport. They may cause food products to no longer qualify for import into Japan.
Each substance has regulatory criteria set by different regulatory bodies. There is no public list of all such subjects, therefore, importers should consult with the Plant Quarantine Stations in advance in case a harmful substance is found in your food product. Quarantine will usually answer you within a week at no charge. There will be some tests that need to be assessed as often as possible, such as the amount of bacteria, harmful mold, etc.
Food processing / manufacturing process: meeting Japanese standards. You need to confirm that your food processing / manufacturing process does not use irradiation. Although irradiation is used as a tool to eliminate food pathogens and prevent food poisoning in many countries, it is not allowed in Japan (though there is an exception for potatoes). Therefore, irradiation testing will be conducted for a wide range of foods.
– Food packaging materials: MHLW systems a list of food packaging materials permitted for use in the Japanese market, including: packages made of synthetic resin, metal, glass, ceramic, porcelain or rubber. If you use wooden pallets confirm that all wooden pallets are fumigated and have the ISPM Stamp (see Appendix).
Due to the limited number of documents in English language and regulations subject to change, work closely with importers or trusted consultants to ensure your food products meet all requirements mentioned above. Importers should confirm in advance in consultation with quarantine stations responsible for monitoring the intended port of import. The importer is responsible, but the packer / exporter should be familiar with the process. Someone can ask questions in English, but the Quarantine Station answers only in Japanese, while MIPRO (Import and Production Promotion Organization) can also provide free telephone consultation.
3. Check tax Classification and tax liability for your product.
It is important to confirm that your importer has clearly received the tariff classification for your products from the Japanese Customs authority to avoid wasting time at the port of import. Customs will respond free of charge within 30 days of the filing date. Classification results from customs offices are valid for 3 years from the date of issue. The importer is responsible, but the packer / exporter should be familiar with the process.
Note that your product may not be classified specifically depending on its ingredients and the method of processing / manufacturing. This should be taken into account as Japan’s tariff classification may be different from other countries. Import tax rates in Japan are calculated on a CIF basis (Costs, Insurance and Shipping), the rates applicable to other suppliers you can also be referenced. Japan imposes an additional 8% consumption tax on all imported goods.
4. Review product labels.
Product labels must be prepared in Japanese according to the Japanese Food Labeling Regulations. The minimum font size required for the main characters on the label is 8 pt. These regulations are subject to frequent change and often differ from regulations in other countries. Product labels in Japanese may be affixed to products overseas or in Japan prior to commercial distribution, but not required by the Government of Japan. In general, product labels are prepared by the importer with the necessary product information from the exporter / packer.
Labeling is required in Japanese in Japan for food additives and retail packages of imported processed food products. Fresh fruits have only a general labeling obligation (Product Name and Country of Origin), but the post-harvest antifungal agents must be labeled for specific fruits (avocado, mango, oranges, mandarin, pomegranate, plum, pear, nectar, pineapple, banana, papaya).
Only the labels of alcoholic beverages can be checked at Customs. However, all labels are subject to inspection and supervision when circulating in the Japanese market by the Provincial Medical Centers (with more than 7,000 inspectors). If the Provincial Health Center accidentally finds that your product label is incorrect, it could result in a product recall.
-Product name: Japan has strict regulations on the presentation of functional foods and nutrition on the label, and is not allowed to present functional foods and nutrition with food products in general.
Misleading factors for any product sold in Japan are strictly prohibited, so be careful when presenting emphasis on health factors unless approved by the Japanese government agency.
Nutritional labeling for processed food products will be required for the 5 basic nutritional ingredients:
1) Calories (in kilocalories),
2) Protein (in grams),
3) Fat (in grams) in force by 2020: the labeling of saturated fat and fiber ingredients is optional,
4) Carbohydrate (in grams),
5) Sodium (salt equivalent in grams).
The expressions of nutrition such as “rich”, “contain”, “enhanced”, “no”, “little” or “reduced” must meet food labeling standards in terms of minimum content. For example:
• When stating “sodium free” or “low sodium”, the sodium content must be less than 5 mg and not greater than 120 mg per 100 g of food.
• When stating “fat free” or “low-fat”, the fat content must be less than 0.5 g and not greater than 3 g per 100 g of food.
Labeling of other nutritional ingredients, such as fatty acids, cholesterol, sugar, minerals and vitamins is also voluntary. However, if a certain nutritional ingredient is displayed on the product’s packaging, it is imperative to include its nutritional content on the label.
Note that U.S. Nutrition Factsheet is not accepted in Japan and therefore it is necessary to convert nutritional values to Japanese formats. Country of origin: Origin labeling requirements are in force for ingredients of 22 food groups and 5 food items used in processed foods in Japan. This requirement is not required for imported processed food products.
-The name and address of the importer.
– Ingredients, except food additives, to write in the order of decreasing the percentage content.
– Food additives are written in descending order of percentage content on a separate line from other ingredients:
Japan requires that most food additives be labeled according to their substance names, but some must be labeled with their name and function (e.g. Sorbic acid – preservative). Some substances are allowed to be labeled with their commonly known generic names (e.g. Vitamin C instead of Sodium L-ascorbate), while others are allowed to be labeled with their group name (e.g. flavoring).
– Unit of measure: The content of each nutritional ingredient per food unit must be provided in 100 g, 100 ml or 1 serving.
– The best expiry date or before the expiration date.
– Instructions for storage and recycling: Paper and plastic packaging must be properly labeled for recycling. The private sector is required to pay all costs associated with the collection, sorting, transportation and recycling of paper / plastic packaging materials.
For imported products, part of the recycling cost is the primary responsibility of the importer. Japanese importers may ask their overseas manufacturers to assist in labeling the appropriate recycling of labels. Make sure that there are appropriate imported products and their recycling labels on all materials used for packaging.
– Allergic labeling: Foods that contain any of the 7 ingredients known to cause a significant allergic reaction: shrimp, crab, wheat, barley, eggs, dairy products and peanut; and any of the 20 additional allergens (cashew, abalone, squid, salmon eggs, oranges, kiwi, beef, walnut, sesame, salmon, mackerel, soybeans, chicken, banana, Pork, Matsutake mushrooms, peaches, sweet potatoes, apples and food thinner) must be listed on the label.
– Certain genetically modified (GE) ingredients / biotechnology or irradiated food are obligated to have special labeling.
5. Review intellectual property rights
In order to protect your Trademarks in the Japanese market, you or your importer may wish to apply for a Trademark under the Trademarks Act. You may also consider using the Madrid System for International Trademark registration. Exporters may wish to design a special logo, brand name or packaging specific to the Japanese market and the Trademarks you register for the Japanese market may therefore be different from the Trademarks you have registered for. for products sold abroad.
Trademark registration typically takes about 9 months (for a quick test it can take 2.7 months if certain conditions are met). The registration fee of the Japan Patent Office (JPO) for a trademark is 3400 JPY + 8600 JPY / class; You may need to consider paying an additional patent attorney fee. It should be affirmed that both the English and Japanese names for which you wish to apply for a Trademark must not be registered in Japan yet. Some U.S. businesses noticed that there were many Trademarks in the market bearing the names they wanted to register. Since Trademark registration takes time, start this process as soon as possible. If you do not have a representative office in Japan, you will need to appoint a Patent Attorney in Japan.