Japanese foodstuffs face high hurdle for Olympics

Japan faces a new hurdle for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games over whether it is possible to obtain international certificates for foodstuffs and wood to be used at the Games.

Since the 2012 London Games, plans have been in the works for nations hosting the Games to procure products that have received certification stating whether sufficient consideration had been paid to sanitary controls and environmental protection.

However, organising certification systems in Japan has been sluggish, worrying officials in charge of the Games.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games regards dining halls of the athletes' village as places where washoku cuisine can be promoted to the rest of the world, and thus wants to use domestically produced foodstuffs as much as possible.

Even if Japanese firmly believe that domestic foodstuffs are safe, people from abroad might not be as understanding. Therefore, it is likely that the organising committee will choose foodstuffs that receive a certain level of safety certification.

The global Good Agricultural Practice (GAP: see below) certificate is seen as a major candidate for international certification for the 2020 Games. The global GAP is an international certification on agricultural products that was employed during the London Games.

Sources say 330 tons of vegetables and fruit and 82 tons of fisheries products were needed in the athlete village of the London Games. In Europe, the number of farms that had obtained international safety certificates increased, making procurement of foodstuff possible.

In Japan, meanwhile, a general incorporated foundation to promote GAP was established in June, but only about 200 farms have obtained global GAP certificates.

Some people in the agricultural sector have voiced concern.

"If the situation goes unchanged, sufficient quantities of domestically produced foodstuffs with proper certification will not be procured," said a representative of an agricultural production corporation in the Kyushu region. "If that happens, Japan will have to rely on foreign products to procure a sufficient amount of foodstuffs."

Therefore, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is considering sending a proposal to the organising committee asking that the procurement of foodstuffs using Japan's own safety certification be allowed. About 2,500 farms have obtained Japanese certification.

Concerning wood products to be used to construct Olympic facilities, it is highly likely that international certification regarding the environment and ecosystems will be employed, as was seen for the London Games. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) issues international certification for forestry products, so this certification is a prime candidate for the Tokyo Games.

Last December, 20 local governments, including those of Yamanashi Prefecture and Hamamatsu, established a council to promote products with the FSC certification and decided to speed up popularizing them. At the same time, local governments have asked the organising committee and other relevant authorities to use FSC-certified goods produced in the prefectures and municipalities.


An international foodstuff safety standard of primary agricultural products. The system is managed and operated by a nonprofit organisation headquartered in Germany. The certification has about 250 checkpoints over sanitary controls, improvements in working conditions and compliance, among other things. More than 140,000 farms in 117 countries have obtained the certification.