Food-serving tongs fly off shelves after bacterial outbreak hits Japan

PHOTO: Nikkei Asian Review

TOKYO - Japanese deli outlets have been furiously buying up serving tongs to address hygiene worries after customers were infected by E. coli bacteria after eating prepared food.

A representative of Tanabe, a company that makes tongs and other kitchen utensils, said he had never seen anything like the current demand for tongs. Around 10,000 pairs have been snapped up in just two days, with orders coming mainly from delis and supermarkets.

Tongs with antibacterial tips are especially in demand. Tanabe is running its plant at full capacity to produce over 60,000 extra pairs of tongs for rush delivery. Delis want to ensure there are enough tongs on hand so there is one pair per plate, and they do not need to be reused.

A total of 22 people were infected with the O157 strain of E. coli after eating potato salad and other products purchased at a Delicious chain store in Saitama and Gunma prefectures. One girl died in early September and the other victims suffered symptoms such as stomach pain.

Fresh Corp., the operator of the Delicious chain, announced on Wednesday it had closed all 17 outlets.

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