Basic Legal Information on Japan – Law on Importing Food Products into Japan

Basic Legal Information on Japan – Law on Importing Food Products into Japan

This is the second in a series of articles from GVA LPC providing basic legal information to foreign companies and individuals that are planning to do business in Japan. This series of articles will highlight Japanese laws and regulations which are central to their need to smoothen their business venture into the Japanese market.


For foreign companies that intend to do business in Japan that involved the importation of food products into Japan, it should be noted that in Japan there is no requirement to obtain a specific or special ‘license’ to be able to have the right to import most food products into Japan, except for the importation products classified as alcoholic beverages, where a license is required. In addition, depending on the type of the food products, an 'import approval' may also be required, the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act ("FEFTA") prescribed that a cabinet order may be issued to control the importation of a certain type as to achieve the sound development of foreign trade and the national economy or to fulfill obligations under the treaties and other international agreements the Japan government has entered.


In general, all importation of food products into Japan requires the importer to provide an ‘import notification’ as prescribed under the Food Sanitation Act (“FSA”). The FSA requires an import notification for the importation of food products that are to be served for the purpose of marketing or to be used in business. This requirement extends to the importation of food products that are to be used as a marketing strategy and will be given for free to unspecified individuals.


The process of importation of food products into Japan can be divided into three stages, it starts with, the first stage, the submission of the import notification by the importer. Submission must be made to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare ("MHLW") quarantine station that is holding the food product in question, all submissions should be made before the process of customs clearance.
In the second stage, upon receiving the import notification, the inspection authority will decide if inspection should be conducted on the food product. If an inspection is needed the inspection authority will issue the respective order for purposes of confirming compliance with the FSA. At this stage, the inspection authority will, among others, (i) validate all facts that were detailed in the import notification, (ii) ensure there is no breach of relevant laws (see chart below), and (iii) ensure that the food products meet Japanese manufacturing standards.
Finally, the third stage, if the inspection authority determines that the food products comply with all necessary laws, the MHLW quarantine station, where the notification was initially submitted, will issue a “notification certificate” to the importer and the importation of the food product will follow its course.


In addition to the FSA and FEFTA, different types of food products will be subjected to different laws and regulations. These laws and regulations will be considered during the inspection stage of the importation process; therefore, it is important that companies should confirm in advance, what laws or regulations are to be imposed on their food products. For references, below is the list of laws that are applicable based on the type of food product.


Types of Food Products


Vegetables, fruits, grain, beans, teas, coffee beans (raw), herbs, spices, etc.

Plant Protection Act 1950

Meat and processed meat products

Act on Domestic Animal Infectious Diseases Control 1951


Liquor Tax Act 1953

Rice, wheat, etc.

■Plant Protection Act 1950

■Act on Stabilization of Supply, Demand and Price of Staples Food 1994


Salt Industry Act 1996

Sugar and Starch

Act on Price Adjustment of Sugar and Starch 1965

Butter, skim milk, etc.

Act on Temporary Measures concerning Price for Producers of Milk for Manufacturing Use 1965

Processed Food Products

Food Labeling Act 2013


The information provided in this article is made for references purpose only, it is advisable to consult a legal professional to understand in detail the implication of the laws and regulations regarding the importation of food products in Japan.