Food Labeling in Japan

When shopping for food, many people want to check the product labels before purchasing. Here we introduce information about labeling of food products containing processed ingredients and allergens.

Labeling on Processed Foods

Information shown on processed food products packaged in packs, cans or bags usually include the product name, ingredients, additives, included quantities, best-before date, storage method, the name of the manufacturer, and other information. In addition to these, some items are displayed that are particular to specific foods.

Food Labels (products produced in Japan)

  • The common name for the contained item.
  • Ingredients.
  • For clarity, additives may be shown separately from the ingredients in the ingredients section.
  • The amount of the contents is displayed, specified in grams, milliliters or the number of items.
  • The best-before date and storage method.
    1. The name and address of the person or corporation that produced the product. As a general rule, the name of the manufacturer is displayed, but the name of the seller may also be displayed if an agreement to do so has been made with the manufacturer.
    2. The alphabet letters or symbols listed in the beginning with “+” alongside the supplier’s name are known as the factory mark; this is registered with the Consumer Affairs Agency as a unique symbol representing the manufacturing site where the manufacturer actually produced the product.
名称 豆菓子
原材料名 落花生、米粉、でん粉、植物油、しょうゆ(大豆・小麦を含む。)、食塩、砂糖、香辛料
添加物 調味料(アミノ酸等)、着色料(カラメル、紅麹、カロチノイド)
内容量 100g
賞味期限 2016.6.20
保存方法 直射日光を避け、常温で保存してください。
製造者 ○○○食品株式会社 +AK
東京都千代田区xxx-xxx

Time Limit Labels

Expiration Date

This date indicates the time limit within which the quality of the contained item(s) will remain in good condition if unopened and stored according to the recommended storage method. This date is displayed on foods whose quality deteriorates quickly, such as boxed lunches and delicatessen dishes. Since the quality of these types of products deteriorates relatively rapidly, the possibility of damage to consumers’ health is increased if this time limit has passed.

Best-Before Date

This date indicates the time limit within which all the expected quality of the contained item(s) is deemed sufficiently likely to be preserved if unopened and stored according to the suggested storage method. This date is displayed on foods whose quality can be maintained for a relatively long period of time, such as canned food and snacks. Since the rate of deterioration in product quality is slow, the relevant product may not necessarily become unsafe to eat even if the best-before date has recently passed.

  • The expiration date and best-before date apply when products are unopened and stored according to the recommended storage method. Therefore, the quality of the contained item(s) may deteriorate even before the time limit has passed if already opened or if not stored in the way indicated.

Ingredients Labeling for Foods Containing Allergens

Allergenic substances labeled (Specific Ingredients)

Seven items always labeled (specific ingredients)

egg (卵), milk (乳), wheat (小麦), peanuts (落花生), shrimp (えび), buckwheat (そば), crab (かに)

20 items whose labeling is recommended (items corresponding to the specific ingredients)

salmon roe (いくら), kiwifruit (キウイフルーツ), walnuts (くるみ), soybean (大豆), bananas (バナナ), yam (やまいも), cashew nuts (カシューナッツ), peach (もも), sesame (ごま), mackerel (さば), salmon (さけ), squid (いか), chicken (鶏肉), apple (りんご), pine mushroom (まつたけ), abalone (あわび), orange (オレンジ), beef (牛肉), gelatin (ゼラチン), pork (豚肉)

  • The names of the specific ingredients are in descending order of the number of allergy outbreaks as determined in a 2011-2012 nationwide survey.

Examples of Ingredients Labeling for Foods containing Allergens

Individual labeling

The allergens in each individual ingredient and additive are displayed. “Including ~” (~を含む)or similar is displayed. Which allergens are included in which ingredients can be seen.

  • The underlined parts are related to allergens. The same applies to the following labels.
  • Allergens are also displayed in the additives. (A)
名称 洋菓子
原材料名 小麦粉、砂糖、植物油脂(大豆を含む)鶏卵、アーモンド、バター、異性化液糖、脱脂粉乳、洋酒、でん粉
添加物 ソルビトール、膨張剤、香料、乳化剤(大豆由来)A、着色料(カラメル、カロテン)、酸化防止剤(ビタミンE、ビタミンC)

Grouped labeling

Allergens used in processed foods are displayed together at the end of the list of ingredients, for example. Which allergens are used in which particular ingredient is not shown, therefore, if more details are required, inquiries should be made to the manufacturer or seller.

名称 洋菓子
原材料名 小麦粉、砂糖、植物油脂鶏卵、アーモンド、バター、異性化液糖、脱脂粉乳、洋酒、でん粉(一部に小麦・大豆・卵・乳成分を含む)
添加物 ソルビトール、膨張剤、香料、乳化剤、着色料(カラメル、カロテン)、酸化防止剤(ビタミンE、ビタミンC)、(一部に大豆を含む)

Allergens may be omitted

If the same allergen appears several times, it may be omitted from the second instance onwards.

Example of label with no omission
名称 肉だんご
原材料名 豚肉ゼラチン、食塩、砂糖、しょうゆ(大豆・小麦を含む)香辛料(小麦を含む)、酵母エキス
添加物 調味料(アミノ酸等)
Example of label with omission
名称 肉だんご
原材料名 豚肉ゼラチン、食塩、砂糖、しょうゆ(大豆・小麦を含む)香辛料B、酵母エキス
添加物 調味料(アミノ酸等)
  • Wheat is also contained in spices, but as “wheat” (小麦) is displayed under soy sauce (しょうゆ), the wheat in the spices is omitted.(B)

For further details, please refer to the Consumer Affairs Agency website

Source of information provided: Food Labeling Planning Division, Consumer Affairs Agency

(Updated October 2016)

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