Japan Data

“Foods with Function Claims”: Growing Japanese Market Faces Safety Concerns

Lifestyle Economy Health Food and Drink

Fatalities and health issues connected to Kobayashi Pharmaceutical supplements containing beni kōji have drawn attention to Japan’s growing “food with function claims” market.

Food products in Japan can be labelled as “foods with function claims” if the companies producing them submit scientific evidence and other required information proving food safety and functionality to the Secretary-General of the Consumer Affairs Agency prior to them going on sale. This system was introduced in 2015 as part of national growth strategy and, as of March 22, 2024, 1,693 companies have submitted 6,795 food products to be able to label their products as FFCs.

According to the research company Fuji Keizai, the FFC market in 2023 was expected to increase by 19.3% year-on-year to ¥686.5 billion and it is forecast to have increased 25-fold in 2026, when compared to the market size in 2015.

Market Size for Foods with Function Claims and Foods for Specified Health Uses

Other food products that can be labeled as having health benefits include “foods for specified health uses,” also known as tokuho in Japanese, which are individually inspected by the government for safety and functionality before being allowed to be sold. There are also “foods with nutrient function claims” that are used for foods that supplement specific nutrients. Compared to FFCs, there are fewer functions that can be labelled as tokuho and it takes more time and money to market the products, so companies have preferred to concentrate on developing FFCs instead. In 2015, the market for tokuho products was at ¥378.4 billion, but Fuji Keizai predicts that it will have shrunk to ¥254.2 billion in 2026.

While the market for FFCs is still continuing to grow, the recent health issues that have come to light with Kobayashi Pharmaceutical supplements containing beni kōji mean that questions are now being raised about the safety of such products. On April 2, 2024, Consumer Affairs Minister Jimi Hanako announced the establishment of a task force led by the deputy director-general of the Consumer Affairs Agency to review the current FFC system.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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