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Importing Food into Japan: Restricted And Prohibited Items

Importing Food into Japan: Restricted And Prohibited Items

Japan has strict regulations for importing food products in order to ensure food safety and protect the domestic agriculture industry.

All food imports to Japan must meet Japan’s food safety standards, which are among the strictest in the world. These standards are set by the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare (MHLW) and enforced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF). The MHLW and MAFF also conduct inspections of imported food products at ports of entry. 

COVUE specializes in helping foreign companies with food import processes. We help you through the whole process – from meeting the food safety standards to processing the labeling and packaging requirements. In this article, we will discuss the food items that are restricted and prohibited to import into Japan.


Food items that are restricted and prohibited to Import in Japan? 

Meat and Livestock products from Certain Countries  

Japan has restrictions on the import of meat and livestock products from certain countries due to concerns about mad cow disease and other diseases. These include beef, pork, and poultry products from countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia. In addition, Japan restricts the import of dairy products from certain countries because of foot-and-mouth disease and other diseases.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables from Certain Countries 

Japan prohibits the import of fresh (and pickled) fruits and vegetables from some countries as stated in the Plant Protection Law. For example, most fruits and vegetables from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, or South America can’t be imported into Japan with some exceptions. They allow selected countries in Asia to ship a variety of fruits and vegetables, except for papayas, mangoes, apples, pears, grapes, peaches, melons, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and potatoes. These examples might not apply to every country in that specific region. It’s best practice to consult an expert to determine if your food items are restricted or prohibited from import.

Seafood caught using Driftnets 

Seafood caught using driftnets is also prohibited from being imported into Japan, due to concerns about overfishing and bycatch. Driftnets are large nets that are left to drift in the ocean and can trap and kill a wide variety of marine animals, such as dolphins and sea turtles.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) 

Japan has a zero-tolerance policy for GMOs in food. This includes products such as corn and soybeans that have been genetically modified to be resistant to pests and diseases. 

Food that contains Additives and Preservatives 

Japan also prohibits the import of foods containing additives and preservatives that are not approved by Japanese law. This includes artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners that are commonly used in processed foods.

Organic Labeled Foods  

You can’t label foods as “Organic” or “Organically produced” in Japan if they are not tested and certified by the JAS (Japan Agricultural Standards) and don’t possess an “Organic JAS mark.” Even if your goods are affixed and registered as such in their county of origin, you need to get a JAS label. Otherwise, you can’t import your goods into Japan.

Note that these restrictions and prohibitions can change over time. It’s always best to check with Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries or the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) before attempting to import any food items into Japan.

Here is all you need to know about importing food and beverages to Japan.


There are strict regulations for importing food in Japan. All regulations and restrictions make it challenging for foreign brands to expand their food business in Japan.

COVUE, as your local operating partner, can help you navigate Japan’s food regulations and help you ensure that you meet all compliance prior to importing.

We’re here to help!