CUJ History

Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) was established by Mr. Takeuchi Naokazu in 1969. For over 30 years, CUJ has led the Japanese consumer movement. In 2006, CUJ was officially certified as a non-profit organization by the new Japanese NPO legislation.

Takeuchi Naokazu

1969

April

Organized a committee to establish Consumers Union of Japan.

June

Published the first issue of Shohisha Report (Consumer Report):
Articles concerning the campaign about the Coca Cola problem and our questions submitted to the Parliament.

August

Campaigned about the safety problem of synthetic detergents based on Dr. Fumihiro Yanagisawa’s research proving the risk associated with synthetic detergents.

November

Led the charge against the sesame oil deception:
Although there was only a 20% content of sesame oil, both Ajinomoto Sesame Oil and Nissin Sesame Oil were deceptively labelled as sesame oil.

1970

June

Lead-added-gasoline campaign:
We revealed that there were no improved engine output effect in addition to health problems related to lead. As a result lead-free-gasoline increased in popularity among drivers. CUJ’s Takeuchi Naokazu gained widespread media recognition.

November

Consumer fraud:
Encyclopaedia Britannica sold together with cassette tapes to children as English conversation material. 2000 unsatisfied customers were able to get compensation. Consequently, legislation was revised regarding installment payment sales.

1971

January

Invited Ralf Nader to Japan and made a workshop.

May

Milk powder advertisement:
We notified Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of a violation against the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law for milk powder to babies and infants.

July

CUJ revealed that Daiwa House Industry Coop committed exaggerated and deceptive advertising for prefabricated houses and sales building lots. As a result, the company had to temporarily close down and publish an apology.

Substandard encyclopedia published by Gakusyukenkyusha:
We revealed that the encyclopedia included a total of 460 mistakes.

September

Revealed invalid ingredient label:
A company labeled the main raw material of their soup as a natural product made of premium dried bonito. But, the raw material was mainly chemical seasoning. As a result, the Fair Trade Commission admonished the company for invalid labeled.

1972

March

Joined to the International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU)

1973

May

CUJ demanded to the Fair Trade Commission that labeling of Sake should only be allowed for alcohol made from rice and traditional koji yeast, and not for Sake mixed with other types of alcohol made from starch- and sugar-containing waste products such as sugar cane, sugar beet, or wood pulp. Consequently, the Sake industry agreed to adopt self-regulation to label the raw materials used in the making of Sake. This ignited a boom for genuine Sake and traditionally produced local Sake.

October

Campaign for AF2 ban successful:
The carcinogenicity of the nitrofuran derivative AF2 (furylfuramide) used for tofu and minced meat and fish paste as a disinfectant was confirmed by a group of scientists. A consumer campaign to ban AF2 spread to the whole country; first, department stores and supermarkets refused to sell AF2-containing foods. Then, food manufacturers decided to discontinue the use of the mutagenic food additive. Also, local assemblies adopted resolutions against it, and finally, the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to ban it totally, admitting AF2’s carcinogenicity.

1974

May

Class action by consumers against illegal oil industry cartel.

May

Consumers Union of Japan established as an independent radical consumers organization.

September

CUJ demands revision of the Anti-monopoly Act (Act on Prohibition of Private Monopolization and Maintenance of Fair Trade); 40 points of revision proposed to all political parties by CUJ.

1975

May

Saccharin scandal:
Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) totally banned saccharin in November 1973, following the announcement of its carcinogenicity by the US FDA. However, MHW repealed the ban the following month; whistle-blowing revealed bribery by food industry. In April 1975, the Ministry introduced 5-10 times higher permissible levels of saccharin based on falsified data that “showed no carcinogenicity”.

May

Campaign to ban lysine:
Adding lysine, one of the essential amino acids, for school-lunch bread as fortification was enforced. However, a group of scientists detected carcinogenic 3,4-benzopyrene in the lysine. A campaign against the lysine fortification led by CUJ and other consumer organizations resulted in a nation-wide ban of the synthetic food additive.

1976

January

Carcinogenicity found in artificial coloring agent:
The US FDA banned Red No. 2, a food dye, after data revealed its carcinogenicity. CUJ sent an open letter to 178 firms with a questionnaire. Major food, medicine and cosmetic manufacturers, as well as department stores and supermarkets replied that they would stop producing and dealing in products containing the food dye.

December

CUJ held an open seminar on hazardous cosmetics:
CUJ also campaigned against cosmetics containing harmful chemical ingredients in its newsletter, Shohisha Report (Consumer Report), and stopped a High School class about makeup and beauty treatment. The campaign made cosmetic makers modify the cosmetic labelling regarding the effect and efficacy. CUJ organized a Cosmetic damage emergency telephone hotline campaign to hear from consumers suffering physical damage caused by cosmetics. The victims, seeking compensation, won a class action suit against five cosmetic makers.

1977

April

The Ministry of Health and Welfare authorized use of ortho-phenyl phenol (OPP) as a fungicide for citrus fruits under pressure from the US FDA. Consumer groups launched a boycott of imported citrus fruits treated with OPP. Consequently, production and sales of domestic lemons increased.

October

CUJ called for an Anti-Nuclear Power Week:
Echoing the call, various events were held throughout the country during the action-week.

1978

March

CUJ initiated a campaign to establish a Freedom of Information Act in Japan: CUJ sent a questionnaire to each political party. A Citizens Movement for the establishment of a Freedom of Information Act started. Ordinances for information access were enacted by several local governments.

October

Illegal irradiation of baby-food:
A Baby-food maker was found to be sterilizing their ingredients with radiation using cobalt-60. CUJ denounced the maker and the authorities. A campaign against irradiated food for school lunches was launched by CUJ and Japan School Lunch Association decided not to use irradiated potatoes; Tokyo Metropolitan government decided to eliminate irradiated food from its central wholesale market.

1979

March

Serious accident at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant: CUJ demanded the Ministry of International Trade and Industry to stop all the nuclear reactors in Japan.

September

CUJ denounced fraudulent advertisement for a synthetic detergent: CUJ’s product test revealed that the maker had used brand new white shirts for its TV commercials. CUJ made a complaint regarding the CM to the Fair Trade Commission, and demanded the makers and TV stations to stop such misleading advertising.

October

CUJ denounced a “ultra-sound face aesthetic device” as a bogus product: the expensive device proved to produce almost no ultra-sound, had even less cleansing effect than normal soap, did not remove cosmetics, and provoked dermatological troubles. CUJ made a complaint to the Fair Trade Commission.

1980

June

CUJ invited Anwar Fazal, the President of the International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU), now known as Consumers International (CI), for the 10th anniversary of the foundation of its newsletter, Shohisha Report (Consumers Report).

1981

August

CUJ started a campaign against long-life milk, sterilized at ultra-high temperature (130-150 C), promoted by the major dairy companies who wanted to compress the distribution cost. Faced with consumer concern, the dairy industry shelved the promotion, while pasteurized milk, sterilized at low temperature (63-65 C), began to spread.

October

CUJ launched a campaign against chemically treated cultured fish, including yellow-tail fish cultured in water and fed with feed with added antibiotics.

November

CUJ and other citizens groups succeeded in making the then Ministry of Education abandon a plan to introduce a nationally uniform school-lunch menu. The MoE had a plan to serve curry and rice in all elementary and junior high schools throughout Japan as a main event during what they named School Lunch Commemoration Week.

1982

April

CUJ called for No to Liberalization of Agricultural Products, Yes to Complete Grain Self-sufficiency.

May

CUJ and anti-pesticide groups started a campaign for banning CNP, Chlornitrofen (2,4,6-trichlorophenyl p-nitrophenyl ether) which had been widely used as a herbicide for rice paddy fields in Japan. Dioxins were detected in one of the commercially produced CNP herbicide, MO. As a result of the campaign, its production and use were banned in 1994.

1983

March

CUJ accused as “wicked” the marketing and advertisement of infant powdered milk: CUJ demanded makers of powdered milk to stop forcing of their products on Japanese young mothers, which violated WHO’s code and obstructed breast feeding.

April

The IOCU Seminar was held in Ranzan, north of Tokyo.

August

CUJ opposed usage of aspartame, an artificial low-calorie sweetener co-developed by Ajinomoto, and suspected of having various harmful effects including brain nerve system troubles, carcinogenicity. Aspartame and 10 other new food additives were approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

December

CUJ jointly conducted a campaign calling for a ban on “My Ruler”, a harmful contraceptive pill.

1985

July

CUJ organized a public meeting of rice producers and consumers to discuss how to protect Japanese rice from US pressure to liberalize Japan’s rice market, and to restore Japan’s food self-sufficiency.

1986

April

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster. CUJ demanded Japanese Government to stop all the nuclear reactors in Japan to conduct thorough checkups.

September

CUJ questioned the relevancy of mandatory mass flu vaccination, pointing out that there was no proof of its efficacy, while several cases of severe side-effects were reported.

1987

January

CUJ disclosed rapid increase of consumers deceived by fraud involving fortune-telling claims and expensive remedies. The Japanese branch of International Federation for Victory Over Communism (created by the Rev. Moon), which was behind the fraud, attacked CUJ in its publications and leaflets.

May

One year after the Chernobyl disaster, CUJ questioned 90 food importing companies to inform the public how they controlled whether their food was contaminated by radioactive materials or not, and to disclose how they dealt with the polluted food.

July

CUJ negotiated with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to stop the use of plastic plates and bowls containing melamine resin for school lunches. Such tableware was increasingly used across Japan, but contained formaldehyde. In spite of widespread anxiety among parents, the use continues even today.

1988

April

Some 20,000 citizens gathered from all over Japan to participate in an action rally against nuclear power in Hibiya Park, central Tokyo.

August

A Liaison Council was formed to tackle the problems caused by golf course development. CUJ raised the debate at its General Assembly.

December

CUJ sent three members as observers to the UN Conference on Acceptance, Management and Trade of Irradiated Food held in Geneva.

1989

March

CUJ issued a statement against the introduction of consumption tax.

1990

April

Held a meeting about the liberalization of rice importation and a food control system.

September

Announced that one of Amway’s detergents was more toxic than other detergents, as result of a toxicity test involving laying sea urchin egg. This was the worst result for Amway.

1991

May

Demanded Mitsubishi Chemical Co. (MCC) to shut down a factory of Asian Rare Earth Co. (ARE) which was a joint venture of MCC in Malaysia.

September

Proposed to stop a MMR (a three part of vaccine) vaccination. Consequently, the vaccination rules were modified from a general vaccination to an individual vaccination.

1992

November

CUJ denounced that the water produced with an “Alkali Ion Water Generator”, a popular health gadget, was nothing but plain water.

December

CUJ called for a new “Basic Food Law”: As a result of this, Food Action 21, a federation of citizens organizations, started a campaign for establishing a law to assure a safe and sufficient domestic food supply, and to protect Japanese agriculture.

1993

April

Together with other NGOs and citizens organizations published a newspaper advertising against the opening of the Japanese rice market, allowing rice imports from other countries. Despite strong opposition to such liberalization, the Japanese government announced a partial opening.

July

CUJ worked on the problem of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

1994

June

CUJ started campaigning against genetically manipulated food: Cheese processed with a milk-clotting enzyme, chymosin, which was produced using GM micro-organisms was commercialized as the first authorized GM food in Japan.

September

Shohisha Report, CUJ’s Japanese newsletter, started running a series of articles on the safety issues related to electromagnetic waves from various sources and electronic appliances.

1995

July

CUJ announced that a synthetic flavour, allyl isosulphocyanate, which was added to wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and karashi (mustard) in tubes, was found to be carcinogenic.

July

CUJ called for a boycott on French products as a sign of opposition to the French Government’s decision to resume nuclear testing in the Pacific Ocean.

1996

January

Association to Re-evaluate Returnable Bottles and Stop Usage of PET Bottles, in which CUJ participated, criticized the extended use of PET bottles for small-size mineral water bottles. The association asked the drink industry to use glass bottles instead that are safer and easier to recycle.

April

Rules for fresh milk labeling changed from production date to “best before” date. CUJ demanded continued indication of production date for fresh milk.

August

O-157 poisoning outbreak mainly through school lunches, with some 9,500 children becoming ill and 11 deceased in Japan.

November

Start of NO! GMO Campaign, participating in the international boycott movement against genetically modified organisms and transgenic food. The NO! GMO Campaign sent questionnaires to the Japanese food industry on the usage and labeling of GM products, organized a large symposium on GM food, and started boycott of GM containing food in Japan.

November

Signature-collecting campaign for restriction of discharge of dioxins.

December

A Network against ITER and Nuclear Fusion collected over 70,000 signatures opposing the proposed ITER project in Tomakomai, Hokkaido.

1997

March

CUJ celebrates the 1000th issue of Shohisha Report (Consumer Report), our members magazine.

March

In response to a call by Taiwanese no-nukes groups, a network of Japanese citizens’ organizations including CUJ called for an international campaign to boycott Hitachi, Toshiba, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry to stop their nuclear exporting.

April

NO! GMO Campaign organized an assembly against GMOs acting in concert with the Global Days of Action Against Genetically Engineered Foods, a world-wide anti-GMO action campaign in which 30 countries participated.

April

CUJ participated the Codex meeting on Food Labelling (CCFL) held in Ottawa, Canada.

September

The Japanese language version of Theo Colborn’s Our Stolen Future gave strong impacts in Japan, including in Japanese government ministries.

1998

April

More than 950 local assemblies opposed to genetically modified (GM) foods and submitted written requests to the central government, calling for the labelling of transgenic products. More than two million petition signatures to the Health Minister demanded to ban all GM foods, or at least to make labelling mandatory.

April

Food Action 21, a federation of Japanese co-ops, producers, and consumer groups for food safety and sustainable agriculture, started a nation-wide campaign to demand National Assembly members to adopt a Charter of Food prepared by citizens. This campaign led to the establishment of the Basic Law on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas.

June

The first International Symposium on Endocrine Disruptors was held in Kyoto. The symposium was organised by the newly established Citizens’ Table on Endocrine Disruptors of Japan (CTED Japan). CTED Japan consists of nine NGOs including Consumers Union of Japan and various co-op organizations. There were reports from Asia-Pacific countries, including the Philippines, South Korea, Malaysia, and Australia.

July

The First Grassroots Gathering on Biodevastation: Genetic Engineering was held in St. Louis, Missouri. Twenty activists from Japanese co-ops, producers, and consumer groups attended.

July

Consumers Union of Japan and five more groups requested the Ministry of Health and Welfare to ban the use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) in toys.

October

Jubilee 2000 Japan was launched with CUJ as one of its executive committee members. Jubilee 2000 is an international movement advocating total debt cancellation for poor countries.

October

In response to the massive campaign (see April 1998), the Ministry of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry submitted two alternatives on labelling of GM food, inviting the public to send comments.

November

The Asian Regional Seminar on Monitoring Transnational Corporations was held in Tokyo. The seminar was organized by Peopleユs Action Network to Monitor Japanese TNCs (TNC Monitor Japan).

December

CUJ took action against the proposed salt factory project in Laguna San Ignacio in Baja California, Mexico, by Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan’s largest general trading company (sogo shosha). The project was later cancelled.

1999

March

Movement calling for GM labelling spread all over Japan. So far, some 2300 out of the total 3300 local government assemblies in Japan have requested labelling of GM foods. Two million signatures from the general public requesting the mandatory labelling on GMOs were submitted to the Government. Several co-ops started their own GM labelling systems.

May

The NO! GMO Food Campaign held a conference “Global Days of Action Against Genetically Engineered Foods” in Tokyo with 500 attendants, inviting Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, a scientist world-renowned for her critical views on genetic engineering, as the key note speaker.

July

CUJ launched a NO! PVC Campaign appealing to consumers and manufacturers not to buy or produce PVC-based products due to concerns about dioxins and hormone-disrupting chemicals.

August

CUJ participated a regional seminar on Codex Alimentarius Commission held in Bangkok by CI ROAP and the Thai Government with a view to strengthening the network among consumer groups in Asia and the Pacific region.

August

CUJ signed an appeal against “undemocratic approval” of a wiretapping bill and led the opposition to a package of anti-crime bills infringing on the free civilian movement.

November

CUJ participated in actions conducted by tens of thousands of people from NGOs from all over the world against the WTO ministerial conference in Seattle. Together with delegations from developing countries, we blocked the adoption of the mandate for further trade negotiations.

2000

March

CUJ and the NO! GMO Campaign co-sponsored an International NGO Forum in observance of the World Consumer Rights Day. Invited key note speaker was Dr. Arpad Pusztai, the world’s foremost GM protein expert, who emphasized, “no further releases of GM-crops must be allowed.”

September

NO! GMO Campaign launched a “NO! GM Rice” petition drive to cope with the development that several GM rice varieties were approved for planting in Japan. They included Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant rice and a virus resistant rice developed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Mitsubishi Chemical.

(Updated April 2008 – Editors)

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