日本の消費者庁、政権移行の最中に始動/Japan Opens a New Consumer Agency in the Midst of Government Transition


 Recent incidents involving defective or mislabeled consumer products motivated the Japanese government to establish a new agency charged with protecting consumer interests. The United States government took similar action in the 1970s to enhance public confidence. The new Japan Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) opened its doors on September 1, 2009, just days after the most historic national election in the past fifty years. Its responsibilities are similar to those of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) but there are significant differences.






 さらに、CPSCの責任は、権限下に置かれた製品の安全性に限定されている。米国連邦取引委員会が、不正広告や詐欺などの問題を扱っている。米国農務省が規制する肉と鶏肉および卵製品を除く食品の安全性や表示(製品上の表示や付随情報)は、米国食品医薬品局(FDA)の扱いだ。FDAが規制する製品はCPSC の権限下にはないが、その場合FDA自体が消費者の懸念に応える手段を持つ。FDAは、消費者が食品や医薬品または化粧品の有害反応について報告できる消費者ホットラインを設置している。また、有害報告があった際の緊急対応手続きも準備されている。

 日本の消費者庁と米国のCPSC、規制範囲は異なれど消費者を守るという目標は同じだ。2組織とも外部の不当な影響を遮断するため独立した組織となっている。しかしながら、政府高官の任命はいつだって権力の座にある党が担う。一例をあげると、George W. Bush大統領は、かつて主要産業の協会長を務めた人間をCPSCのトップに任命した。消費者運動家は、それはまるでキツネをニワトリの囲いに入れるに等しく「きたない」と非難の声をあげた。消費者庁は、退陣する自由民主党によって予定よりも早く鳴り物入りで発足した。しかし、メディア報道によると、民主党は消費者庁長官の人事を見直すというようなことを言っている。まあ明らかに、そういった騒ぎは収まるであろうし、消費者庁は日本において消費者製品の安全性や表示に良い影響をもたらすかどうかが判断される機会も現れるだろう。


 The CAA was conceived in 2008 during the Fukuda administration and established under the Consumer Affairs Agency and Consumer Affairs Commission Establishment Act following a series of problems with consumer products, ranging from pesticide-tainted gyoza from China to defective gas water heaters. Fraudulent business practices including mislabeled food products lead to low consumer confidence and criticism that the government was too focused on supporting industry rather than consumers. The CAA’s jurisdiction covers laws concerning safety, trade, and labeling (including the Japan Agriculture Standards Act and the Food Sanitation Act). The CAA has been designed to serve as a central point in the Japanese government where consumers can report adverse experiences with products they purchase.

 The CAA is also authorized to give instructions and recommendations to other government bodies to improve consumer products. A clearer picture of the role and actions of the new agency will require some time, but the CAA’s stated scope of responsibilities is broad, including misbranded or unsafe foods and other products currently regulated by various Ministries. News articles indicated that CAA will be staffed by some 200 individuals from Ministries, including economy, agriculture, and Health, Labor and Welfare. The CAA will be subject to oversight by a Consumer Affairs Commission that reports to the Cabinet Office.

 The CPSC was established by the U.S. Congress in 1972 under the Consumer Product Safety Act and began operations the following year. According to the CPSC homepage, the CPSC “is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction.” The homepage further explains that the CPSC is “committed to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical, or mechanical hazard or can injure children.” The CPSC is headed by three Commissioners appointed by the President, who designates one of the Commissioners as the Chairman. Commissioners must be confirmed by the Senate and serve seven-year, staggered terms. Commissioners set policy and the Chairman serves as the Chief Administrator. CPSC is staffed by over 400 employees.

 The CPSC develops voluntary safety standards with industry, can issue mandatory standards if no practical alternative exists, and can recall unsafe products that fall under its authority. CPSC plays an important role in providing information to consumers, state and local governments. It does not conduct safety tests or make recommendations for specific products; rather it conducts research and publishes information about safety features to help consumers to select safe products.

 CPSC oversees the safety of over 15,000 consumer products in the U.S.- cribs, toys, swimming pools, BBQ sets, household chemicals, power tools, cigarette lighters, all-terrain vehicles, among others. CPSC’s authority covers a plethora of consumer products, but unlike its new Japanese counterpart, its authority is “gap-filling,” i.e. limited to products that are not regulated by other agencies. For example, automobiles and other on-road vehicles, tires, pesticides, foods, drugs, cosmetics, alcohol, tobacco, and firearms are not under CPSC’s jurisdiction.

 Further CPSC’s responsibility is limited to the safety of the products under its jurisdiction. The Federal Trade Commission is responsible for handling incidents of false advertizing or fraud. The authority for the safety and labeling (the label on the product and any accompanying literature) of food products rests with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), except meat, poultry, and egg products that are regulated by the U.S.D.A (Department of Agriculture). Even though products regulated by FDA do not fall under CPSC’s authority, FDA has procedures to respond to consumer concerns. The agency maintains a hotline and also has procedure for emergency action when there are reports of adverse reactions to FDA-regulated products.

 CAA and CPSC have similar goals for protecting consumers, though the scope of regulation is different. Both were established to be independent agencies insulated from undue outside influence. Nevertheless, appointments of government officials are always a function of the party in control. For example, President George W. Bush nominated a former head of a major industry manufacturing association to head the CPSC. Consumer activists cried “foul” asserting the nomination was tantamount to putting the fox in the chicken coop. The CAA was opened with fan-fare ahead of schedule by the outgoing LDP, but according to the media, the DPJ indicated that it would review the appointment of the head of the new agency. Undoubtedly, the dust will settle and CAA will have an opportunity to see if it can have a positive influence on the safety and labeling of consumer products in Japan.

 In the U.S., CPSC claims to have “contributed significantly to the 30 percent decline in deaths and injuries over the past 30 years.” One thing seems certain, in-coming administrations and new agencies can be slow to make decisions on products that may be controversial with the public. This does not bode well for biotech foods; a point for which this author would be happy to be wrong.


About J.H.Maryanski 17 Articles
元FDAバイオテクノロジー安全性専門官 James H. Maryanski 元米国食品医薬品局(FDA)バイオテクノロジー安全性専門官 1965年 Ohio State University卒業。72年 University Of New Hampshire博士号取得、77年FDA入庁、85年FDAバイオテクノロジー・コーディネーター、99年経済協力開発機構(OECD)への米国代表団代表。06年よりJ.H.Maryanski LLC 農業・食品バイオテクノロジーコンサルタント代表。