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Opportunities in Japan’s Food Packaging Market

under the Revised Food Sanitation Act of 2020


Japan adopts the Positive List System for safety of food utensils, containers and packaging (UCP)

Market Overview

Japan’s consumer food and beverage sectors are enormous at about $779 billion in 2018 and growing more than 11% over 8 years according to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Japan’s food and beverage packaging markets are estimated to reach about US$19 billion in 2020 and growing despite a gradual decline in its population as expected for this mature economy.


The food packaging sector is expanding faster driven by the increasing consumption of single-serve, prepared foods due to growing trend of single-member household, aging population, working women and popularity of ecommerce in consumer food distribution. The total packaging market for beverage and food containers, medical, industrial, wrapping film, and shipping materials is also expected to grow to US$51 billion in 2023.[1]    

The safety of food utensils, containers and packaging (UCP) in Japan has been secured mainly by regulation by the national government and the voluntary management by trade organizations. In 2019, Japan’s Food Sanitation Act of 1947 has been revised (effective June 2020), to overhaul how the national government regulates the UCP, initially for plastic materials.


Consequently, the voluntary rules regulating product certifications issued by trade organizations are being updated in 2020, applicable to the entire supply chain of the materials, such as resins and additives, used in manufacturing UCP products.


[1] “2019 & 2017 Packaging Material Trend and Outlook”, Fuji Keizai Group

New Compliance Regime

The governmental rules switch to the Positive List System from the Negative List System, bringing them in line with the existing trade self-regulations and the global standards.


Under the current (and expiring) Negative List System, the use of only substances with specifications and standards is restricted. The shortcoming of this system, however, is that the government cannot regulate immediately the substances whose use is not permitted in the EU countries and the United States, unless individual specifications and standards are set. The EU countries and the US apply the Positive List (PL) system prohibiting the use of substances that are not authorized based on risk assessment. 

Therefore, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) through its committee (the Committee on the Regulation of Food Utensils, Containers and Packaging) has designed the new Positive List System for Japan. This National PL system will apply first to synthetic resins as raw materials for UCP. In terms of target parts, the System applies to food-contact surfaces and inner layers of multi-layered structures which do not directly contact with food, if components of the layers are likely to migrate into the food. Manufacturers and distributers of raw materials and UCP are subject to this new compliance regime.

How Trade Organizations are updating their product certification to the National PL System?

New Opportunity

Foreign manufacturers of food packaging materials should find the new food safety regime in Japan as a renewed opportunity for business there, now that companies experienced with the EU and US Positive List Systems will find more familiarity in navigating the territory. Some practical tips for doing business in the food packaging material industry in Japan:

  • Product certifications can be obtained by the trade associations such as JHOSPA

  • Product certification via a trade intermediary such as JHOSPA is designed to protect proprietary product information from competitors, suppliers and customers while asserting the safety and quality of your products for users

  • Product certifications can be issued only to its association members

  • JHOSPA association membership requires foreign applicants to have a designated Japan-based liaison who can be a 3rd party agency

  • JHOSPA membership must be maintained for a valid period of product certifications

  • All communications of and with JHOSPA are conducted in Japanese language

  • Government announcements and publications of rules are limited and often lagged in English

  • Relying on suppliers and customers as your JHOSPA liaison might risk potential conflict of interests such as confidentiality of your product formula, informational delay, independent control of your product compliance matters, etc.

  • Independent 3rd party compliance support services might be a solution to mitigate the above risks while ensuring your ongoing compliance


The information on this website is provided solely for informational purpose and does not constitute legal advice.

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