December 29, 2003



Japan To Implement Certification System


Japan's Ministry of Agriculture has announced the implementation of a new certification system in 2005 for all farm products detailing accurate production histories.


The new standards will be added to the Japanese Agricultural Standards, and certification labels will be affixed to all agricultural products meeting the necessary criteria.


As of this month, the ministry implemented a system in which JAS labels are issued for beef with accurate records and labeling of production histories. Imported beef is also eligible for the new labeling system. Concern over the safety of imported beef is on the rise in light of the confirmed case of mad cow disease in the U.S.


The proposed system will cover all farm products as a rule, including rice, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Major retailers display production histories of goods such as vegetables in their stores, but standards vary among companies.


As a result, the Agriculture Ministry saw a need for a system that tells consumers whether the provided information is sufficient and accurate. The common standards will be finalized next year.


Producer names and addresses, harvest and shipping dates, and use of agrochemicals and fertilizers will be among the information whose availability will form the baseline criteria used in issuing certification labels. Consumers will be able to access product histories by entering ID codes into in-store terminals.


Similar to the labeling system for beef, imported farm products meeting the standards will receive the certification labels. But almost no agricultural imports currently provide detailed production histories. Exporting countries, citing excessive government intervention, may voice opposition to the certification system.

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