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Japan: Diet Passes New Act Aimed at Reducing Food Loss

(Oct. 9, 2019) In May 2019, the Diet, Japan’s parliament, enacted the Act on Promoting Food Loss Reduction (Food Loss Act) (Act No. 19 of 2019 (Reiwa 1).) The Food Loss Act, which took effect on October 1, 2019, was part of the government’s plans for taking measures to reduce household food waste in response to Target 12.3 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Target 12.3 calls on all nations to halve food waste and reduce food loss by 2030.
To reduce food waste, Japan previously enacted the 2001 Food Recycling Act (Act No. 116 of 2000, amended by Act No. 83 of 2007), which promotes reducing and recycling food wastes into fertilizer and feed. One of provisions of the Act obligates businesses that generate large amounts of food waste to take measures to reduce and recycle the waste and report their food waste situation to the government periodically. (Arts. 7 & 9.)
The new law focuses on food loss. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations explains food loss and food waste as follows: “Food loss refers to any food that is lost in the supply chain between the producer and the market. … Food waste, on the other hand, refers to the discarding or alternative (non-food) use of food that is safe and nutritious for human consumption.” Under the Food Loss Act, food loss is described as discarded food at each stage of production, manufacture, sales, consumption, etc., that can still be eaten. (Food Loss Act, preamble.)
The Food Loss Act obligates the national government to establish a basic policy to cut back on food waste, and local governments to devise their own action plans. (Arts. 3, 4, 11–13.) The national and local governments are to educate consumers and businesses. (Art. 14.) Moreover, the national and local governments are to take measures to facilitate activities of nongovernmental organizations to collect usable food that is going to be wasted and distribute it to people in need and to disaster victims. (Art. 19.)
The Act also urges businesses and consumers to be proactive about reducing food loss. (Arts. 5 & 6.) Restaurant patrons taking leftover food when they leave a restaurant would be one such proactive measure. “Doggy bags” are not common in Japan, so a private group, the Doggy Bags Dissemination Committee , is disseminating the idea to the public. The Consumer Affairs Agency also publicizes the activities of anti-food loss groups on its food loss education web page . Businesses are now also utilizing artificial intelligence to manage food better.

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