Hundreds of mislabelled ‘Japanese’ brands found across Asia

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Kobe beef was among the items most widely mislabelled. © iStock
Kobe beef was among the items most widely mislabelled. © iStock
Asian food manufacturers have been tapping into growing demand for Japanese products by mislabelling local goods to make them appear authentic.

A survey of products sold in six Asian cities by Japan’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry found 927 items confirmed as being falsely labelled as being Japanese. These ranged from local Thai melons being sold as “Yubari Japnese melons​” to premium brands such as Tajima beef and mass-market staples including Shinshu miso.

The research covered goods in some 30 supermarkets in each of the six cities. In Shanghai, wagyu beef was found to be manufactured in Australia under a prestigious Japanese brand name, while products wrongly purporting to be made by the Japanese Edo brand were widely available.

South Korea-manufactured udon was found being retailed as Sanuki udon in Hong Kong, while miso sold as “Shinshu no ahi miso​” was found to have been made locally for Taipei supermarkets.

The latest survey in an annual series that dates back to 2009 also investigated online shopping channels, on which 166 food items were found to be used without authorisation. Among these, the words “Kobe​” and “Tajima​” were used wrongly for 92 beef products.

In a move to protect Japanese products from being mislabelled overseas, the ministry has embarked on a geographical indication system, whereby the names of items produced in specific regions can be registered as intellectual property. So far, 28 items, including Kobe beef and Yubari melon, have been registered.

Under the GI protection system, Japan can crack down on mislabelled food items in overseas markets through agreements with other countries to mutually protect their products. Currently, however, Thailand is the only country to have agreed with Japan to cooperate on the venture since it came into force in 2015.

We will negotiate with other countries to expand mutual protective measures​,” said an official at the intellectual property division of the ministry. “Although it is impossible to detect all mislabelled products, we will strengthen our monitoring efforts​.”

Related topics Policy Supply chain Japan East Asia

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