The farm ministry plans to crack down on deliberate mislabeling of food by introducing prison terms of up to one year and increasing maximum fines, ministry officials said Friday.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry wants to beef up the punishment for falsely labeling food under the Japanese Agricultural Standards Law in light of the recent rash of meat-mislabeling scandals, the officials said.

In addition to the threat of imprisonment, the maximum fine of 500,000 yen would be raised to 1 million yen for individuals and 100 million yen for companies, according to the officials.

The ministry is also planning to release the names of companies that violate the law.

Currently, the ministry can only divulge such information if the guilty firm gives its consent.

“One reason why this law has not been strictly followed is because penalties for offenders are so lax,” agriculture minister Tsutomu Takebe acknowledged during his regular news conference Friday.

Ministry officials have also said that there are not enough inspectors to check labels against contents.

The ministry plans to draw up a bill to revise the law by the end of April and hopes to secure Diet passage during the current session, which runs until June 19, the officials said.

The discovery of Japan’s first case of mad cow disease last fall shed light on the fact that a number of domestic companies, including Snow Brand Foods Co., have long been deceiving consumers by selling cheaper products bearing the labels of more high-quality brands.

In a devastating scandal, it was discovered that Snow Brand Foods included imported meat in shipments of domestic meat being bought up by the government in the wake of the mad cow disease outbreak.

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