The Consumer Affairs Agency introduced in April a new labeling system for food products with enhanced health-boosting properties. Under the system, newly certified products called kinou-sei hyoji shokuhin — literally food with functions indicated — are expected to hit the market in June. Their explanatory notes will state health benefits in a clear manner, making it easier for consumers to choose the products they want. But consumers buying products carrying the designation should keep in mind that the health benefits have not been independently tested and certified by the government.

So far, food makers have been allowed to indicate the health effects of their products on labels for two types of products — items that can be used for boosting the intake of particular types of vitamins or minerals, with notes explaining which vitamins or minerals they contain and what effects the vitamins or minerals have, and items called tokuho, short for tokutei hoken-yo shokuhin (food with specified health uses). Under the tokuho system, the makers need to carry out research to prove that their products have certain effects. They can get the tokuho designation only after the government examines the research outcome and determines that the results are reliable.

The new labeling system was introduced as part of the Abe administration's move to push deregulation in the market of food products. Because the designation under the tokuho system takes a lot of time and money, it is often difficult for small and medium-size producers to obtain the designation for their products. To help overcome this problem, the administration borrowed an idea from a system in use in the United States.