Japan Data

Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency Calls for Labeling Changes Over COVID-19 Claims


Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the internet has been rife with ads touting products that claim to help prevent infection, like “Defend against COVID-19 with Lactobacillus bifidus” or “Hang from your neck to clear the surrounding air of viruses!” Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency is calling for an end to such unproven claims.

Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency investigated 39 companies and 33 products that claimed to act against viral infection in online advertisements between December 2021 and February 2022, and found that there was a risk that they could mislead consumers into believing that the products were highly effective. It is calling for changes to labeling based on the Misleading Representations Act and Health Promotion Act. Although the request did not carry the force of legislation, 38 of the 39 companies responded to the request as of February 18. In cases where the businesses had presences in online shopping malls, the information was also shared with the mall operators.

Claims that are subject to the call include “Fight corona with vitamin D,” or “Hot new University X research shows 5-ALA (5-aminolevulinic acid) is effective in inhibiting the growth of coronaviruses.” displayed on health foods, or items like a neck-worn air purifier, anti-virus curtains, or negative-ion generators that claim to reduce the concentration of viruses in the air.

“These items can create a false sense of security if used, leading to consumers perhaps not taking the precautions against infection they normally would. There is still a risk of more product misinformation spreading, so we advise caution,” a CAA representative said, calling on consumers to be aware.

The National Institute of Biomedical Innovation’s Institute of Health and Nutrition summed current research results last year, saying “As of now (August 11, 2021), we can find no information on any food or ingredients having recognizable effects in preventing infection from the novel coronavirus.”

Examples of Claims Targeted for Revision:

Health Foods

  • Hot new University X shows 5-ALA (5-aminolevulinic acid) is effective in inhibiting the growth of coronaviruses
  • Prevent COVID, boost your immunity, and fight aging with a daily bowl of miso soup (melanoidins).
  • Fight corona with vitamin D
  • The medicinal properties of honey: prevent colds by boosting immunity, fight off bacteria and viruses, and beat corona!
  • Use Lactobacillus bifidus to fight corona, boost immunity, and build an illness-proof body!
  • Sweets with persimmon tannins kill corona. University X announces research showing persimmon tannins render the novel coronavirus inactive.

Neck-Worn Air Purifying Chemical (Chlorine Dioxide)

  • Neck-worn corona blocker, virus blocker, safe and secure, nontoxic

Antivirus Treated Curtains

  • Destroys coronaviruses! Safe curtains keep working even after washing! No need to worry! Curtain fibers grab and attack viruses!

Negative Ion Generators

  • The purpose of this is to reduce as much as possible the concentration of viruses and bacteria that we breathe in by making the suspended particles heavier, forcing them to land. We believe these can help prevent infections and stop corona.

Source: Consumer Affairs Agency

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

food health care advertising coronavirus COVID-19