Currently the health food industry in Japan is buzzing with the news of a new claim system for Food with Function Claims (FFC). According to the news and several interviews, we estimate that more than 270 products are submitted to the Consumer Affairs Agency up to now, and 67 products (one withdrawn) are accepted by the agency(as of August 5, 2015). Target condition for the claims accepted include eye health, skin health, joint health, digestive health, body fat reduction, mental health, anti-fatigue, sleep support and life-style disease prevention (blood sugar, blood lipid etc). The substantiation of claims are mostly systematic review of functional ingredient (active component), which is 80% of the total number of accepted products, clinical study is used only for 12 products so far. Most of the companies are requested to revise the dossiers or provide additional information after a submission and that is making the process longer. Companies must submit the dossiers 60 days before launch of product, but it starts from the date of acceptance by the agency. Since it takes time until the information get disclosed, consumer organizations complain that there is not enough time for consumers to check the information. Voices raised by the industry and consumer organizations are trying to urge the agency to accelerate the confirmation. Companies starting for the preparation of notification from now should be reminded that it will surely take much more time than you expect to get your product passed as FFC.
Consumer Affairs Agency; a Japanese food labeling regulator and authority of health claims announced on February 18th 2015 that they will officially approve several applications of alcohol-free drinks to hold functional claims as FOSHU; Foods for Specified Health Uses despite a warning by an advisory body from Consumer Committee. Submissions are made by Sapporo Breweries Ltd and Kao Corp. to get approval from the agency to promote non-alcoholic beers with claims such as “Helps slow the absorption of sugar.” and “Helps burn more fat to use as energy”. Ingredients used for such claims are indigestible dextrin and catechin respectively. The agency put a condition for the two products to follow the voluntary standards set by industry organizations for such products specification. Products meeting the standards are banned to promote towards children and required for consumers to show ID to verify their age at shops.
The advisory panel from Consumer Committee commented last August that “such product is not appropriate for sales as FOSHU because it may lead to minors consuming alcoholic drinks”. Despite the observation, the agency decided that the two products met the standards of health benefit and safety requirements for FOSHU recognition.
Meiji Co., Ltd announced to launch 2 dairy products; Meiji Probio Yogurt PA-3 and Meiji Probio Yogurt PA-3 Drink containing Lactobacillus gasseri PA-3 that is aimed at fighting purine body. Purine is a chemical compound found in some foods that will be broken down into uric acid. A diet rich in purines from certain sources can raise uric acid levels in the body, which sometimes leads to gout. Meiji holds thousands of cultures of lactic acids with numerous features and health benefits. The company’s strategy for dairy products can be found in their existing products such as LG21 and R-1, of which health benefits are not only for gut but for stomach or immune health. These products are not holding claims approved by the government such as FOSHU but are succeeded to gain regular consumers by their unique “marketing without applying health claims”. With this new product, they are aiming at new target consumers with point of difference in health benefit.