Although existing international treaties stipulate the obligation of liberalizing foreign trade, countries can still stipulate certain requirements for the entry of foreign products into their territories. In the case of food products this margin is widely significant since import and export regulations aim towards protecting the health of citizens.
As many other countries, Japan has strict procedures for the entry of foreign food products into its market, which can be summarized in three major steps: in the first place, all producers must submit a prior import notice; in second place, Japanese inspectors can decide to inspect the cargo; and finally, those satisfying the two previous steps will obtain a notification certificate that is essential for the entry of merchandise into the country.
These requirements are mainly determined by the Food Sanitation Law. The government agencies regulating these issues are the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries -MAFF-which manages affairs relating to agriculture, forestry and fishery products; the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare -MHLW- responsible for developing safety policies for the everyday life of its people; and the Food Safety Commission, which evaluates the consumption of food products in Japanese territory.