Thursday, November 24, 2011

Becoming a food hygiene manager in Japan

One of the requirements of opening a food related business in Japan is that you need to have a person who is the designated 'food hygiene manager' / shokuhin eisei sekininsha / 食品衛生責任者. My understanding is that if you are already a qualified chef, nutritionist (etc.) you can be given this designation fairly simply. Since I'm not already qualified, and since I'm planning to start this business alone I've been looking into the possibility of becoming a food hygiene manager as a foreigner in Japan.

The training takes the form of a 1-day seminar with sessions on relevant topics, ending with a short test to see that you've taken in the information given during the day. Yes, it's all in Japanese, but there is no guidance against foreigners applying, and on the Japan Food Hygiene Association's official website's FAQ they discuss non-Japanese people taking the test saying something like there shouldn't be a problem "as long as they have enough linguistic ability to pass the test, and have an alien card" (or the upcoming equivalent replacement of the alien card, I guess).

The seminars for Tokyo are held multiple times a month. You apply by post (application form) or directly at the health centre, specifying your top 3 choices of times and places to attend - it seems they get booked up. If all goes well on the day and you pass the test, you'll come away with the certificate there and then. You must then display it in an easy to see place on your premises. I'm going to see if I can spot and take pictures of some of them I see round and about town.

According to blogs from people who have attended the seminars, the test is supposed to be fairly simple. It's a multiple choice, so if your kanji reading skills are good and if you study up in advance I don't see why there wouldn't be a very good chance of passing. Since this is just a one-day thing it does seem to me that the real rationale behind this requirement is to designate the person to blame (fire?) in the event something goes wrong (^ - ^); 

There is a nice page here, with a sample test, along with explanations of the answers:

And here is one of the questions, with a rough translation:
問1 食品衛生法に基づく営業許可に関する記述で、正しいものはどれか。
  1. 菓子製造業を営業しようとする者は、都道府県知事が定めた施設基準に適合しなければ営業許可が与えられない。
  2. 菓子製造業の常業許可には、有効期限がないので、一回取得すれば施設がある限り営業することができる。
  3. 菓子製造業を営業しようとする者は、住所地の市町村長の営業許可を受けなければならない。
  4. 菓子製造業の営業許可を受けた者は、施設に必ず食品衛生管理者を置かなければならない。
Hygiene Law Questions
Q1 Based on food hygiene law, which of the following is correct regarding business permits?
  1. Persons wanting to run a confectionery business will not be given a business permit if their facilities do not meet the requirements of the relevant authority.
  2. A confectioner's business permit has no expiry date, so you can continue to operate as long as you have the facilities.
  3. Persons wanting to start a confectionery business need to get permission from their local mayor.
  4. A person who has a permit to run a confectionery business has to have a food hygiene supervisor at the facility.
The correct answer is 1. 
Hmm, it was a bit trickier than I thought it might be, because as I was thinking that 4 could also be correct. Reading more carefully though, it seems that the distinction is between a food hygiene sekininsha, and a food hygiene kanrisha. The kanji translates roughly as 'person responsible' in the case of sekininsha and 'manager' for kanrisha, but confusingly the most common usage of 食品衛生責任者 in English uses 'manager' for sekininsha already. Easier to think about it in Japanese I guess! The reason 4 is wrong then, is that although you need a food hygiene sekininnsha ('person responsible for') you don't need a food hygiene kanrisha ('supervisor' or official manager) when you're only running a cake shop or restaurant. Kanrisha are needed when you're manufacturing things like dairy products and meats, in factories I should imagine.

Aside from studying up for and taking the test, I also need to find out what the health and safety requirements are for opening food businesses in my area of Tokyo. That's one of my next tasks, and maybe it'll require a trip to the local Health Office. I'll keep you posted.

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