60 per cent of Japan's department stores linked to food mislabeling

JAPAN - Sixty per cent of the nation's department store chain operators had tenants on their food floors that used misleading representations of ingredients, it has been learned.

Fifty-one of 85 department store operators belonging to the Japan Department Stores Association were thus linked to some form of mislabeling, the organisation said. It conducted a survey of its members in the wake of a series of food mislabeling scandals involving hotels, restaurants, department stores and other businesses.

In light of the results, the association held a meeting of a special committee dealing with the issue earlier this week to compile preventive measures. It submitted a report Thursday to the Consumer Affairs Agency on the measures, which include requiring tenants to display certificates about ingredients' claimed geographical origins, to clarify cooking methods and to conduct surprise inspections in addition to regular product inspections more than once a year.

The association has confirmed mislabeling cases at 121 establishments, about 53 per cent of the total of 230 stores operated by the 85 department store companies. By business type, 99 were restaurants, 14 were tenants on food floors and seven were osechi traditional New Year's food packages offered by some of the stores.

Among the misrepresentations were prawns identified as kuruma ebi or shiba ebi when lower-priced shrimp were actually used. As to how the mislabeling occurred, the association said department stores have no system for inspecting food labeling by tenants and cannot confirm the authenticity of ingredients themselves as they must rely on food suppliers.