Penalties eyed for food mislabelling in Japan

Penalties eyed for food mislabelling in Japan

TOKYO - The Consumer Affairs Agency has decided to introduce a system to impose administrative monetary penalties on those involved in food mislabeling, in response to a series of false labeling cases at hotels, department stores and elsewhere, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

False labeling of food products violates the Law against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations.

The government plans to introduce the penalties as it concluded that current administrative measures are insufficient to prevent such behavior, sources said.

Under the new system, refunds made by businesses to affected consumers could be deducted from the penalties, according to the sources.

It would be the first time that a method to compensate consumers is included in the nation's monetary penalty systems. The Consumer Commission of the Cabinet Office, an advisory panel that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set up in December, plans to include the new system in a report to be completed on Tuesday.

After submitting the report to the prime minister, the agency plans to solidify the details of the system in the hope of submitting a relevant bill to an extraordinary Diet session in autumn.

Penalties would be imposed for false descriptions not only of ingredients on food menus, but on all kinds of products, the sources said.

The agency plans to set the amount of the penalty at 3 percent of the sales figures of mislabeled products. But the amount may be raised as some commission members say 3 percent is too low, according to the sources.

Among previous punishments against operators who violated the law, the heaviest was an "order to take measures" to prevent the recurrence of such cases.

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