Big stores rife with mislabeled food

The practice of putting false labels on food items has been rampant in major department stores, as more stores such as Mitsukoshi, Isetan, Sogo, Seibu and Odakyu stores admitted to the false labeling of dishes on menus, it has been learned.

The announcements were made a day after Takashimaya Co. and Daimaru Matsuzakaya Department Stores Co. admitted to problems in the descriptions or labeling of their food items.

Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. said Wednesday some of its tenant restaurants used ingredients different from those displayed on the menu for 52 dishes. One of the restaurants has been selling falsely labelled dishes on their menu since 1996, selling 221,000 dishes for more than ¥300 million (S$3.8m).

It said the food mislabeling practice has been found at 14 tenant shops of nine stores-Mitsukoshi's Nihonbashi main store; three stores in Sapporo, Sendai and Takakmatsu; Isetan's Shinjuku flagship store; three stores in Fuchu, Urawa and Sagamihara; and the Isetan Kaikan commercial facility.

At a coffee shop at one of the nine stores, Chinese chestnuts placed on top of marron tart cakes were labelled as French chestnuts. At a Chinese restaurant, the menu claimed the restaurant used shiba shrimp, but vannamei prawns had actually been used.

The meat served at a Western food restaurant was actually made of smaller meat scraps held together with meat glue, but the menu did not mention it was processed meat.

Ken Akamatsu, executive managing director at Isetan Mitsukoshi, said at a press conference, "We'd like to apologise to all our customers and those concerned."

"We failed to check ingredients of the dishes sufficiently because we trusted our clients. Isetan Mitsukoshi believed that they served exactly what the menus describe," he said.

Sogo & Seibu Co. also admitted to false food labeling practices for 13 dishes on the menu at restaurants of its seven stores. A restaurant claimed on the menu it uses Awa beef, a delicacy from Tokushima Prefecture, but instead it served beef from Kagoshima Prefecture.

Meanwhile, another restaurant used low-priced shrimp for dishes while the menu said it used expensive shiba shrimp.

According to the company, false labeling was found at tenant restaurants in Sogo's Tokushima, Kawaguchi, Chiba and Yokohama stores and Seibu's Higashi-Totsuka, Tsukuba and Odawara stores.

Odakyu Department Store Co. also announced that it sold special osechi New Year's food under the Fauchon brand using shrimp that was different from what was listed. The company said it sold 25 sets of such osechi at Shinjuku, Machida and Fujisawa stores in 2012.

Hotel president to resign

Nobuyuki Kitada, president of Kintetsu Hotel Systems Management Ltd., announced his resignation Wednesday after the discovery that its group hotels and inns had inaccurate descriptions of food items on the menus at some Kintetsu Corp. affiliated restaurants.

"I recognise [that the hotels did] false labeling," he said during a press conference in Nara.

He also announced there were another seven false-labeling cases at its five inns and hotels. Kitada replaced former and current chefs involved in the practices.

At a Japanese-style inn, Nara Manyo Wakakusa no Yado Mikasa, processed meat from Australia was served as wagyu beef.

Kitada has said the chef and other cooks had failed to recognise the difference.

On Wednesday, Kitada said he recognised what the inn did was considered false labeling, but he was reluctant to say so at the Oct. 31 news conference.