Category Archives: Corporate Responsibility

Japan’s Soy Sauce Makers Replied to Our Questionnaire Regarding GM-Free Labelling

Japan’s Soy Sauce Makers Replied to Our Questionnaire Regarding GM-Free Labelling

Consumers Union of Japan

Food Safety Citizens’ Watch

NO! GMO Campaign

Japan is considering changing its mandatory labelling system for genetically modified (GM) food. Currently, a processed food can contain as much as 5% GM ingredients but still be labelled as GM-Free. At a Consumer Agency meeting on February 16, 2018, a new strategy to deal with GM labelling and such contamination issues was discussed.

One of the draft proposals was to set the limit at 0% (below detection limit). If such a strict rule is introduced, it will probably be very difficult for food companies to avoid contamination, even if identity preserved handling is adhered to. This would most likely mean that the current GM-Free label, which is quite common in Japan, would disappear.

On March 1, we sent a questionnaire to six major food companies to ask them about their opinion and how they respond to consumers that do not want to eat GM food. The six companies were Kikkoman, Yamasa, Masada, Higeta, Higashimaru and Morita. These companies use the GM-Free label, or 「遺伝子組換えでない」 in Japanese on some of their products.

We received the following replies from five companies that make soy sauce and use identity preserved handling to avoid GM soy.  

Question 1: Do you agree or disagree with the proposal to change the rule for the GM-Free label, so that it can only be used if the contamination is 0% (below detection limit)?

(1) We agree (2) We oppose (3) Other


Kikkoman: (2) We oppose

Yamasa (2) We oppose

Masada (3) Other (Administrative policy decision)

Higeta: (2) We oppose

Higashimaru (3) Other (We will follow the labelling law when it is introduced)

Question 2: If the GM-Free labelling rule is changed to limit contamination to 0% (below detection limit), how do you expect the current labelling on your soy sauce products will change?

(1) If the detection limit is changed to 0%, the GM-Free label will be impossible to use, so we will stop using it. In that case, we would stop importing soybeans that are IP handled and change to start using GM soybeans that are not kept separate from GM-Free soybeans.

(2) We will change the label on our soy sauce explaining that “We use GM-Free soybeans that are kept separate from GM soybeans” and continue import using IP handling.

(3) Other

Kikkoman (3) Other (Correspondence is currently being considered)

Yamasa (3) Other (We will continue import using the present IP handling but will consider it again in the future and have not decided)

Masada (3) Other (We will follow the administrative guidelines)

Higeta (3) Other (Correspondence is currently being considered)

Higashimaru (3) Other (We will make a judgement after the legal revision)

Question 3:

What kind of additional information regarding GM ingredients would you like to share with consumers that are considering buying your soy sauce?


Kikkoman: The labelling space is limited, so we are considering concise and plain expressions that do not cause misunderstanding to be desirable.

Yamasa: We are listening to the detailed suggestions from the Consumer Agency. We wish that our customers will see the label and understand it.

Masada: We will make a judgement after the legal revision.

Higeta: The most important thing is that the consumer understands the label.

Higashimaru: We will make a judgement after the legal revision.

Press Release: Appeal for World Food Day

Our goal is a world with no genetically modified foods and an end to the multinational corporate control of the global food supply

October 16 is the World Food Day, as designated by the United Nations. The aim is to combat hunger and promote agriculture, while the forces that makes this difficult to achieve are having the opposite results. Regional conflicts and nationalism are increasing poverty. We are especially concerned about the concentration of economic resources into the hands of just a few corporations that control the global economy. At the same time, governments have embarked on EPAs and FTAs that ignores public opinion and lead to more division in society.

In just the past 12 months, the worst case scenario has become reality, with multinational agribusiness takeovers and mergers, much as we predicted over 20 years ago. This is a de facto monopoly over the global seed supply and cannot be accepted. How are we as consumers and farmers supposed to react to Bayer taking over Monsanto, while DuPont merged with Dow, and Syngenta was purchased by a ChemChina, the Chinese chemical company, except to oppose it? Our health and freedom to farm and purchase food that we can trust will now be completely at mercy of these few multinational corporations that control genetically modified crops through DNA patent rules and global agreements on intellectual property rights and other strong-arm tactics.

At the same time, this year we learned that genetically modified salmon has been approved in North America in spite of protests. This is the first GM animal to be sold as food. If this is acceptable, where does it lead us next? New GM technologies such as genome editing and RNA interference are also increasingly being promoted. Examples include canola and potatoes developed with these new GM techniques.

As if this is not enough, in April 2017 the Japanese government suddenly abolished the 1952 Seed Law, after multinational corporations engaged in the seed business complained that the publicly funded seed program hindered their attempts to expand their business. After only a few hours of deliberation at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committees of the Parliament, the new Seed Law bill was passed without any concern for the possible impacts on our agriculture and food systems. Instead, we maintain that the trend to undermine Japan’s public seed program for major crops should be stopped. We should ensure that the national and local governments will remain involved in the seed program as an essential part of our food security policy.

We have clear evidence that agriculture as promoted by multinational corporations are destroying the health of citizens, in particular children. It has been admitted that agricultural chemicals are the main cause of allergies, which are becoming increasingly common, and evidence from the United States show that children’s development is impaired by such residue in food. The most serious problem is GM foods as their introduction 20 years ago has led to a drastic increase in the amount of toxic glyphosate used and consumed. However, the Japanese government keeps changing the allowed residue levels leading to higher levels of pesticides and herbicides, even relaxing the standard for glyphosate as recently as July, 2017. We need to radically change the current thinking about agriculture and get rid of dangerous chemicals from our food supply.

We believe in expansion of agriculture that is small-scale and organic, with local production for local consumption, within an international framework that connects citizens around the world. Co-operation is the basis for world peace. Furthermore, we believe that World Food Day should stand for agriculture without harmful chemicals, allowing no genetically modified or genome edited foods. We will continue to fight against multinational corporations and their systems that lead to hunger and malnutrition.

October 16, 2017

Consumers Union of Japan

No! GMO Campaign

Do Not Shift Nuclear Power Plant Related Costs to Our Electricity Bills

The Japanese government is planning to charge all electricity consumers with the cost of the nuclear power plants that the power companies with nuclear power plants should primarily shoulder. Consumers Union of Japan is requesting the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to withdraw the introduction of the new system.

We are also starting a campaign to collect signatures to support our message: “Please do not shift the costs related to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident to our electricity bills.” Please cooperate and spread the word among friends and acquaintances. You can download the pdf file with the signature campaign appeal form here (J). The government’s plan seems to be to submit this bill during the ordinary session of the Parliament, so the deadline for Consumers Union of Japan’s signature campaign is January 31, 2017.


Withdraw the proposed new system to shift nuclear power plant related costs to our electricity bills

On December 22, 2016, Consumers Union of Japan sent a letter to Hiroshige Seko, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. We pointed out that the new system proposed by the government would spread the financial burden of nuclear accident compensation and reactor decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant to new electricity suppliers, who would likely pass on their share of these costs to their customers. The government now estimates the total cost for reactor decommissioning plus Fukushima nuclear disaster compensation at some 8.3 trillion yen.

We oppose this proposal because energy problems are important issues that concerns our lives deeply. It is unacceptable that the Parliament will not properly deliberate Japan’s future energy plan in a democratic way, instead sticking to nuclear power generation. The proposal to relieve the current energy power companies of their responsibility goes against all common sense. We urge the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to not include nuclear power in the base load power supply, and instead focus on renewable and sustainable energy sources.

CUJ co-signed Joint Open Letter calling on UNIQLO to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia

Consumers Union of Japan has co-signed the open letter calling on Fast Retailing Co., Ltd., owner of the UNIQLO brand, to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia. We are urging Fast Retailing to increase their leverage by cooperating with other brands, e.g. H&M and Lindex, sourcing from both Zhong Yin as well as from a number of suppliers belonging to the parent company, Beijing Joywin. We firmly call upon Fast Retailing to act swiftly and responsibly, to use all their leverage and ensure the fundamental rights of workers to freedom of association.

Continue reading CUJ co-signed Joint Open Letter calling on UNIQLO to guarantee labour rights in its supplier in Cambodia

Stop Using Antibiotics for Farm Animals: Questionnaire

Report: The Message from Consumers in Japan:

Stop using Antibiotics at Animal Farms!

– We asked fast food companies to reply to our questionnaire –

July 20, 2016

“The antibiotics won’t work…” Isn’t it rather unbelievable to hear about such a crisis for modern medicine? If no action is taken, resistance to antibiotics and similar drugs (antimicrobial resistance) will cause 300 million deaths a year globally by 2050. Massive overuse of antibiotics has increased the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Whilst over-consumption of antibiotics in human medicine is a huge problem, what is less well known is that around half of the world’s antibiotics are consumed by farm animals. In many cases animals are not given the drugs because they are sick, but because producers want them to grow faster, or to prevent illness from spreading amongst animals raised in poor conditions. Is meat from such cattle, pigs and chicken really safe to eat?

Consumers Union of Japan decided to send a questionnaire to food companies including fast food chains, convenience stores and family restaurants that sell a lot of different meat products in Japan.

The aim of our investigation was to get a clear picture of how globalization has influenced the fast food industry in Japan, and how food safety is being dealt with at fast food chains and restaurants operating in this country. Our questionnaire included a number of issues, but in this report we will focus on the question: Does the company have a policy for not using antibiotics for animal growth promotion? These foods are imported legally and sold in Japan, even as they are causing an increased level of concern worldwide.

About the questionnaire:

Many consumers are wondering, “Is the food made by this company really OK?” when eating out or purchasing it at a supermarket or a convenience store. There is no choice but to believe in the information provided, regarding food safety. But we also have doubts that a corporation pursuing profits will be making all kinds of fanciful statements.

Consumers International (CI) and its Members are calling on multinational restaurant chains, including McDonald’s, KFC and Subway, to make global commitments to end the routine use of antibiotics important for human medicine.

Specifically, in February 2016 a CI report found that McDonald’s, KFC and Subway currently fall far short in their response to the global antibiotic resistance health risk. We need to use this opportunity to tell McDonalds, KFC and Subway that they must act to:

  • Define a global, time-bound action plan to phase out the routine use of antibiotics important in human medicine across all meat and poultry supply chains
  • Show progress by adopting third-party auditing of their antibiotics use policies and publishing the results.


Replies from companies in Japan: “Do you use meat from animals given antibiotics for growth promotion purposes?”


McDonald’s: “Our company uses a global feed standard and restricts the use of antibiotics in the US, but the animals in other countries are raised following the rules in each country. The beef used in Japan comes from cattle raised in New Zealand and Australia, and we follow the Japanese Food Hygiene Law and the local regulations for animal drugs and feed additives as well as the global standard. Pork used in Japan comes from the US and chicken from Thailand. Also for these products we follow the global standard and local regulations.”

CUJ comment: The above reply does not confirm that McDonald’s does not use antibiotics as for the purpose of growth promotion in animal feed, but rather that it is possibly being used routinely. There seems to be no real concern for antibiotic resistance and the need to phase out the routine use of antibiotics important in human medicine, or to adopt third-party auditing as called for by CI.


KFC: “All chicken we sell in Japan are being raised at farms in Japan. Antibiotics and antimicrobials are not used for the purpose of growth promotion.”

CUJ comment: This reply from KFC clearly denies using antibiotics, but we cannot be sure that this is the case. We also do not know if they use antibiotics important in human medicine in the case when birds get sick, and if they use it for the entire flock or just administer it to individual birds. Third-party auditing as called for by CI would be an assurance that they understand the seriousness of the issue of antibiotic resistance.


Subway: “We do not use antibiotics as drugs to cattle for the purpose of growth promotion.”

CUJ comment: This reply from Subway clearly denies using antibiotics, but we cannot be sure that this is the case. We also do not know if they use antibiotics important in human medicine in the case when birds get sick, and if they use it for the entire flock or just administer it to individual birds. Third-party auditing as called for by CI would be an assurance that they understand the seriousness of the issue of antibiotic resistance.


Freshness Burger: “We can confirm that there is almost no use.”

CUJ comment: It can be said that the level of awareness about antibiotics is high.


Mos Burger: Antibiotics and antimicrobial agents are being used to different degrees to treat disease depending on the type of illness, and we use the drugs properly according to the situation.”

CUJ comment: This is not a direct reply to our question, so we contacted their consumer hot-line for clarification. They confirmed that they currently use antibiotics for meat production.


CUJ summary:

“KFC, Subway and Freshness Burger all appear to have gone to great length to avoid using antibiotics for the purpose of growth promotion at their respective animal farms,” says Michiyo Koketsu, CUJ.

“On the other hand, McDonald’s did not reply that they do not use antibiotics in this way, and Mos Burger clearly said they use antibiotics. McDonald’s in the US has stated that they will move away from using antibiotics for growth promotion for chicken, so there is a chance that McDonald’s in Japan will also move in this direction sooner or later. We strongly support Consumers International’s global campaign to lobby these corporations to move away from routinely using antibiotics in animal feed for the purpose of growth promotion.”


Contact: Michiyo Koketsu