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Recent updates about the Cellular Agriculture field in Japan ― Q&A Part 1

更新日:1月16日

Q: Who regulates the sale of cultivated food in Japan?

 

A: MHLW for now and MHLW + CAA from the following April.

The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (“MHLW”) is the Japanese government's food safety risk management organization.

Unlike the FDA in the U.S., risk management and risk assessment are controlled by separate authorities. MHLW is responsible for risk management, and the Food Safety Commission (“FSC”) under the Cabinet Office is responsible for risk assessment. Currently, FSC funds a risk assessment method study for cultivated chicken by a team at the Tokyo University Of Agriculture. However, the result will not directly affect the regulatory framework of cultivated food. When MHLW needs to make an official statement to the public about the safety of cultivated food, the research by FSC will be referred to as one of the most legitimate sources for how to understand the safety.

 

MHLW is technically the primary stakeholder “in charge of” the sale of cultivated meat. Even though Japan has no law to ban or approve the sale of cultivated meat, MHLW still has to make clear the legal interpretation of cultivated food and its legal procedure to sell, manufacture, or import cultivated food. Without clarification from the authority, business companies cannot determine which food category is appropriate to report to the public health center to manufacture cultivated foods or to determine the proper procedures for importing cultivated foods per HS codes and the Act on Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control.

 

From April 2024, the number of governmental agencies that food companies have to communicate regarding food safety will be doubled. Within the food hygiene administration under the MHLW, the food hygiene standards administration will be transferred to the Consumer Affairs Agency (“CAA”) from fiscal 2024 (in Fig 1, the administration is written as “food safety standard creation division” for simplification). This means the “food safety standard creation division” will be transferred to the CAA, and the “monitoring and management of food safety” function will remain in the MHLW.  

 


Fig 1: Structure image of relevant government stakeholder

It sounds like a nightmare for business operators to have two separate points of contact for the market launch, but the administration transfer can also be a good sign for us. Since the CAA is within the Cabinet Office, Prime Minister Kishida will become the ultimate chief executive officer responsible for the “food safety standard creation division” instead of the Minister of Health, Labour, and Welfare. Prime Minister Kishida mentioned the importance of cellular agriculture in communication during the diet in February 2023. Since MHLW may not be familiar with accelerating the discussion about food safety in terms of industrial promotion of early-stage technology, I hope that the change in the top decision-makers will allow them for a slightly more flexible response than before for the novel food sector. CAA says the transfer of the administration will enable them to do three things below: ensure scientific safety in food hygiene and further enhance consumer benefits.

 

①    Promotion of food safety awareness supported by scientific knowledge,

②    timely reflection of the needs of the sellers of food and consumer behavior in discussions on the development of standards, and

③    to participate in the international response related to the International Food Standards (Codex) in an integrated manner.

 

(ref) The author referred to and summarized the official materials linked below, which may contain potential mistranslation. Please check the below links for official information.




 

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