Far East digest

Japanese coalition compromises on planned food tax hike

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags: Food, Nutrition, Food and drug administration

Japan's ruling coalition partners have agreed to a to exempt food products from a planned tax hike in 2017, when general consumption tax will be increased by two percentage points.

The decision follows tense negations between the Liberal Democratic Party and its Komeito ally, which had differing views on which food segments would benefit from an exemption.

The LDP had sought to apply a lower rate only to fresh foods to start, but recently conceded to its junior partner to add processed foods to the initial list. 

By maintaining the lower rate for fresh and processed foods, the government will now need to find an addition JPY1tr (US$8.2bn) to account for such a shortfall. 

Forgoing certain social security measures will cover JPY400bn, but the rest remains unaccounted for, according to Nikkei Asian Review.

A senior government official has proposed raising Japan's tobacco tax to help close the gap, though this measure is opposed by the LDP. Another plan would have the government issue bonds balanced by tax hikes planned for a future date.

The new tax policy is meant to bolster Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's target of raising Japan's gross domestic product to JPY600tr in around five years, as the nation continues to battle the downside effects of a number of pressing demographic issues, including its rapidly ageing and shrinking population.

Another issue stemming from the coalition allies’ compromise is the terms of the definition of “processed food​”, which are not yet defined. The LDP’s tax chief, Yoichi Miyazawa, said that extending the exclusions to processed foods would make it difficult to differentiate between processed foods and those served at restaurants.

There has also been a proposal to exclude snacks and beverages from the list of exempted items, though the ruling parties are unlikely to set exclusions that could “cause confusion​,” sources told Japan Times​.

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All importers now signed up with Taiwan’s new food safety database

All food importers are now registered with a new government database, which Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration believes it can use to monitor food safety more efficiently and communicate important information to companies.

Taiwan

The platform was established earlier this year by the FDA in the wake of various food scandals to hit the island in recent years. The regulator then told all food importers that they were required to register by December 31.

Whereas before the system was established, it usually took about a week for companies to receive notifications, now it would only take a few minutes through e-mail, said Cheng Wei-chih, an FDA official.

Without a registration number, companies would not be able to have goods declared and examined, he said. The FDA now believes that all 10,227 food importers have completed registration. 

Using the platform, we will be able to communicate information to these companies in a very fast and efficient way. This is a big change in food management​,” said Cheng.

Fines have also been put in place for companies that do not provide accurate information for the database.

Nestlé launches app-based wellness club in Japan

The world’s biggest food company has launched a personalised service in Japan that will use an app to assess data before suggesting monthly “training menus​” to users aged over 50.

Nestle

The Nestlé Wellness Club provides subscribers with nutritional support based on data about their physical activity, dietary information and brain training scores, all of which are collated by a dedicated app.

It will initially launch in Hokkaido prefecture, where members can regularly upload photos of the foods they eat to the platform, while a fitness band linked to it measures their daily activity levels.

Dieticians then review the information alongside the results of brain training exercises to suggest monthly menus to users that target their precise nutritional needs.

They will also select specially fortified matcha green tea capsules that can be used with Nescafé Dolce Gusto machines.

Members can also arrange direct consultations with nutritionists and “brain trainers” via Skype.

Related topics: Policy, Supply chain, Japan, East Asia

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