Early in February a team from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) traveled to Japan to discuss new food safety regulations that could impact tea as well as other agricultural products.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act rules increase the standards placed on food imports. The imported products will have to meet the same safety level as foods produced in the United States. It was signed into law in January 2011 with the goal of “shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.” The five key parts of the law are prevention, inspection and compliance, new tools to ensure safety of imported food, recall authority and great partnerships.
Japan is very interested in increasing exports, particularly in key areas like rice, tea, and soy-based products. The two FDA seminars hosted in Tokyo and Osaka were attended by nearly 600 participants in total. A complete manual with translated FSMA information was created by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO). There is definitely concern on the Japanese side about creating production standards to meet the regulations without compromising the integrity of green tea’s specialized production.
FDA officials also used the opportunity to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare. The FSMA delegation was able to meet with Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan.