Sunday, July 15, 2007

Food Safety

Recently the news (both here and in the USA) has been filled with problems with Chinese food. The Japanese media has especially loved this, taking us into China and showing just how poor Chinese food hygiene can be among the poor in China (while showing the program panelists making faces of disgust). Some Japanese whom I have talked to---actually many---are quick to point out yet another problem with China. One went through a long explanation of why this sort of thing is a result of Chinese selfishness. They don't want to follow the rules for the rest of the world, you see. They only think of themselves. He is a very nice, pleasant guy who is fun to be around. It's just that he, led by Japan's media and gov't elites, distrust and dislike China. In some societies, one could view some of the comments and stereotypical beliefs as bigotry at the best. But, Japan is different. We are all pure here.

The strange thing is that while this has been going on there has been yet another serious food safety scandal in Japan. These seem to crop up at least once per year---old food relabeled as fresh etc. Meat Hope is interesting as it was a Hokkaido-based Japanese meat processor which, after first denying any wrongdoing, admitted to: relabeling out-of-date products; labeling beef as pork; labeling imported chicken as Japan-raised (a very big sin here); mixing guts into ground meat and forgetting to label it; mixing barbecued pork into ground pork; using meat "unfit for human consumption." and much more. At least 18 serious violations. The last is especially appetizing. Supposedly, they took spoiled meat, sterilized it, and added fresh blood to it to make it appear red and used it in its products. Most of Meat Hopes products were sold to convenience stores and restaurants. What's more, the government knew about this long ago after whistle-blowers from the company informed it and even provided sample and evidence. Nothing was done until it became public. Article HERE.

Mmmm. Sounds great. I am becoming as concerned with Japanese processed food as with Chinese. I know the the use-by dates are quite shaky. If you are looking for skim milk, for example, at Tokyu, and it is within 3-4 days of its use-by date I'd be suspicious. That milk is first sold with around a 10 day use-by date. It is sold at the expensive Precce branches of Tokyu, (Denenchofu, for example) and it all seems to disappear and be replaced by fresh milk within 2-3 days. I remember at Kajigaya Tokyu though, all the skim milk would arrive with only 3-4 days left. Still safe to drink, not illegal or even particularly deceptive. It's just not fresh.

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