TOKYO - The government plans to exempt overseas companies that have obtained Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) certification - the global standard of food safety - from some import procedures regarding processed foods, The Yomiuri Shimbu
The new government policy aims to highlight the safety of imported foods because import volume is expected to increase dramatically after the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) multilateral free trade agreement comes into effect.
Though the government will continue snap inspections on foods produced by HACCP-certified companies, it plans to exempt them from quarantine inspections at harbors and airports for five years.
The new policy would help overseas firms by reducing paperwork such as inspection application forms and also speed up the process by several days.
The Japanese government, which would be able to reduce its own workload, will soon inform quarantine stations and countries exporting foods to Japan about the new policy, which will be put into practice in summer or sometime after.
HACCP is a system of monitoring food production processes, including heating and cooling. Food companies are certified if they clear standards set by their respective governments that are based on the guidelines of the Codex Alimentarius international food safety commission. Companies cannot export products if production problems are discovered, such as insufficient heating temperatures.
“This method is safer than random checks on finished products,” a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry official said. Inspectors can track the safety records of imported foods and find reasons for any problems.
The number of imported cases of foods and other goods to Japan was about 2.22 million in fiscal 2014, or an about 26 per cent increase since fiscal 2008.
After the TPP, which was officially agreed by 12 counties including Japan and the United States, takes effect, tariffs among participating nations will be abolished and the import volume of processed foods is expected to increase.
Japan has its own food safety certification system, but government officials point out that certifications must be comprehensible to foreign visitors, whose numbers are rising, so they can eat and drink in Japan without concern.
A system developed in the 1960s in the United States in order to ensure food safety for astronauts by thoroughly checking and recording production processes, such as heating temperatures. According to a fiscal 2014 survey by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, 87 per cent of leading food companies whose sales exceed 5 million yen ($43,857) and 34 per cent of mid- and small-sized food companies have obtained certification.