1. Agriculture World

Japan’s Consumer Affairs Agency to Declare Mandatory Labelling of Walnut as Allergens

CAA revises the allergy labelling requirements on a three-year cycle, based on the "Reports on Food Labeling Related to Food Allergies Investigation Project." This longitudinal survey series is a collection of food allergy case reports.

Shivam Dwivedi
According to a CAA survey, the number of walnut allergy cases in Japan has more than tenfold increase in the last nine years.
According to a CAA survey, the number of walnut allergy cases in Japan has more than tenfold increase in the last nine years.

Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) of Japan is planning to add walnuts to the list of allergens that product manufacturers and importers must list on the label of packaged products containing walnuts. Currently, CAA strongly recommends but does not require the inclusion of walnuts on the label. Over the last decade, US walnut exports to Japan have increased from 10,604 metric tonnes to 21,944 metric tonnes.

According to a CAA survey, the number of walnut allergy cases in Japan has more than tenfold increase in the last nine years. Following the surge, which is thought to be caused in part by an increase in walnut consumption in the country, the agency plans to add walnuts to the list of food allergens that must be specified on product labels by the end of the fiscal year through March.

Food allergen labelling standards were established by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) in 2001, but oversight of the Food Labeling Standard was transferred to CAA, a division of the Prime Minister's Cabinet Office, in 2009.

CAA revises the allergy labelling requirements on a three-year cycle, based on the "Reports on Food Labeling Related to Food Allergies Investigation Project." This longitudinal survey series is a collection of food allergy case reports.

The number of walnut allergy cases increased from 40 in 2011 to 74 in 2014, 251 in 2017, and 463 in 2020, according to the triennial survey. Severe allergy cases, including anaphylactic reactions, increased to 58 in 2020, up from four in 2011.

In the 2020 survey, tree nuts were responsible for 13.5 percent of all food allergy cases, the third-highest share after eggs (33.4 percent) and milk (18.6 percent). Walnuts accounted for the vast majority of tree nut allergy cases.

According to the agency, the number of walnuts consumed in Japan in 2020 will be 18,826 tonnes, up from 9,872 tonnes in 2011. In Japan, seven food items are currently required to be labelled as allergens: eggs, milk, wheat, buckwheat, peanuts, shrimp, and crabs.

Furthermore, allergen labelling is recommended for 21 items, including walnuts, soybeans, bananas, and pork.

If the CAA classifies an allergen as a required ingredient and it is present in a food product, the product manufacturer or importer must include the individual allergen's name on the packaging. However, if a required ingredient is included in the final product as part of a processed ingredient, the label must also include the allergen's name.

If walnuts are added to the list, they will be the first addition since shrimp and crabs in 2008. CAA will hold a public comment period before making this change to the Food Labeling Standards, but no dates have been announced.

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