Foods with health claimsFoods with health-promoting claims are a major part of the health food market in Japan, which used to encompass mainly “foods for specified health uses” (FOSHU) and “foods with nutrient function claims” (FNFC). While the latter bears labels describing the effects of added vitamins and minerals, FOSHU labeled items require the permission of the Japanese Consumer Affairs Agency to promote a products’ health claims. Even though they are subjected to a strict approval process in which the claims are evaluated by the government, FOSHU product experienced significant growth particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. To further facilitate applications, “qualified FOSHU” and “standardized FOSHU” were introduced for foods meeting the safety standards of general FOSHU products but need to fulfill only a part of the regular requirements.
Following relaxations in health food regulations in 2015, foods with function claims emerged as a new category garnering manufacturers’ interest. Apart from a simplified product registration process, foods with function claims do not need to be pre-approved by the government. Instead, manufacturers and retailers bear the responsibility for marketed function claims.
Eating habits and health awarenessAs the traditional Japanese diet is already considered to be very balanced, consumers’ desire for natural and health-beneficial foods is strong. The reasons for recent shifts to a health-conscious lifestyle are multifold, ranging from rising levels of dietary requirements to a heightened sense of awareness in manufacturing processes and ingredients.
With a growing share of consumers avoiding certain food ingredients or attributes for health and fitness purposes, ingredient and nutrition labels are becoming major information sources for purchase decisions. Consequently, the awareness for food labeling is growing in Japan, as calorific values and fat contents are considered the most important information on nutrition fact labels.