The Japanese cabinet endorsed a set of bills on Friday to ensure the safety of food and protect consumer health in the wake of a series of scandals and incidents to hit Japan in recent years.
According to a Kyodo news report, the bills were devised in response to the outbreak of mad cow disease, the false labelling of meat and other products, high levels of pesticides in imported vegetables, and deaths and illnesses caused by Chinese diet aids.
Echoing recent steps by Europe that saw the building of the new European Food Safety Authority, one of the bills in Japan seeks to set up a governmental food safety commission to evaluate the health effects of certain foods.
The proposed commission would consist of seven experts in toxic and chemical products. The experts would be charged with recommending to health and farm ministers that the government take preventative measures when certain food products pose risks to the public.
The Kyodo report writes that industrial revival minister Sadakazu Tanigaki said the bill is intended to comprehensively ensure the safety of food.
"We would like to regain the public's trust in food by enacting the bill," he said at a news conference.
Another bill is intended to revise the health improvement law to ban false or exaggerated advertising of food products. Currently, a hotly debated topic in many European countries as consumer organisations increasingly put the pressure on the food industry.
A bill to revise the food hygiene law calls for raising maximum fines from 1 million yen to 100 million yen for corporations that have sold or imported food containing pesticide residue.
Also endorsed was a bill to establish a system to identify cows and their producers as well as beef distributors to help track beef infected with mad cow disease.
The bill would require cattle farmers to register identification numbers assigned to all cows with the authorities and oblige wholesalers and retailers to put labels carrying the numbers on their beef products.
Nippon Food, a subsidiary of Nippon Meat Packers, and Snow Brand Foods, a dissolved subsidiary of Snow Brand Milk Products, were at the centre of a scandal that revealed they had intentionally abused a government buyback programme - established after the discovery of mad cow disease in Japan - in September 2001.