Fukushima aims to be Japan's premier GAP "safe food-producing prefecture"

16 February 2019

The Fukushima prefectural government revealed on Feb. 15 it plans to beef up initiatives aimed at maximizing safety and quality control for local food, including agricultural and processed products, as an "advanced prefecture offering safe food" in fiscal 2019 starting April. Given challenges facing the prefecture, it will place a greater focus on efforts to enable local organizations to acquire the GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certification of farm produce safety, raise awareness about the food sanitation control standard of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), and disseminate related information among consumers and business operators.

The local government underlined the plan at a "GAP challenge seminar" held by the prefecture and the Fukushima Prefectural Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives at the Yulax Atami convention and spa complex in Koriyama city, Fukushima Prefecture.

The initiatives cover the whole process of food-related business, including production, processing/distribution and sales at stores, calling for improvement in efforts to ensure safety at each stage of the process in an integrated manner.

At the production stage, the prefecture will sharply increase the volume of GAP-certified farm produce that can be supplied to major customers, such as big supermarkets and restaurant and hotel operators. Demand for GAP-certified agricultural products is growing, but production of some items is said to be lagging behind demand. The prefecture intends to instruct and support GAP certificate acquisition by organizations and groups, including those of producers, in cooperation with the central union, a Fukushima chapter of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) group.

In processing and distribution, the prefecture will encourage all food production and sales facilities to adopt the HACCP standard, currently limited to such places as centers for cooking school meals and major manufacturing plants. It will seek to ensure that the importance of abiding by standards, such as those for cleaning and temperature control, is more widely known through seminars and other events.

According to GAP Research Institute, some of its data shows that GAP is known by 5% of consumers. The prefecture is to seek the cooperation of major business operators and other relevant parties, through individual visits and other measures, in displaying GAP-certified agricultural produce at the store front as well as holding in-store GAP fairs, thus allowing consumers to become familiar with the standard.

"We will continue responding to challenges with utmost efforts with a view to achieving the status of Japan’s No. 1 prefecture in acquiring GAP certification and revitalizing our agriculture, forestry and fisheries," Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told the seminar. Also addressing the gathering, Masayoshi Yuki, vice president of the JA Fukushima central union, said he wants to see "people all over the world realize the tastiness and safety of prefectural farm produce on the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics" in 2020.

(Translated by Kyodo News)