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2013年12月25日 (水)

虚偽表示対策 「食」の信頼回復につなげたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun December 24, 2013
Steps to prevent false food labeling should lead to recovery of trust
虚偽表示対策 「食」の信頼回復につなげたい(12月24日付・読売社説)

We hope the government’s latest step will help recover public trust in food products.

The government has compiled a series of measures to deal with a spate of false food descriptions and mislabeling recently found on restaurant menus at several well-known hotels and food sold at department stores.

The government will submit to the ordinary Diet session next year a bill to revise the Law for the Prevention of Unreasonable Premiums and Misrepresentation concerning Products and Services.

The main pillar of the revision is reinforcement of the food display monitoring system. Relevant ministries, including the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, will be authorized to investigate alleged breaches of the system. This change is necessary because there is a limit to how far the Consumer Affairs Agency can investigate since it has no local outposts.

Utilizing about 1,300 “food display investigators” of the agriculture ministry stationed across the country, it will be possible to efficiently monitor and detect any false labeling regarding a product’s place of origin.

Meanwhile, prefectural governments, which currently have the authority only to investigate and issue instructions to violators, will be empowered to issue orders to violators and impose penalties on them. Business operators that do not abide by these orders can be fined up to ¥300 million.

We hope the beefed-up system will deter operators from falsely describing their products.

Under the revision, business operators are obliged to stipulate who is in charge of food descriptions on their menus. We think it is appropriate that the revision aims to encourage operators to change their way of thinking by clarifying who is responsible for food descriptions.

The government will reportedly consider introducing a system under which violators pay penalties. Yet some observers have suggested that calculating these fines will be complex and time-consuming. Many skeptics doubt such stringent measures are necessary. Prudent discussion is required on this issue.

Many industries affected

After inaccurate food descriptions on restaurant menus at hotels operated by Hankyu-Hanshin Hotels Co., based in Osaka, came to light in October, such misrepresentations were also found to be widespread among other industries, such as department store operators and sake brewers.

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency, 307 business operators have admitted to the government that they falsely described some of their products.

The agency has ordered three companies, including Hankyu-Hanshin Hotels, to work out corrective measures concerning food product misrepresentation.

The widespread falsifications stem from a lack of morals on the part of business operators and their apparent lack of understanding of the law.

The agency will soon draw up guidelines showing specific examples of false displays and other infractions. Utilizing these guidelines, the relevant ministries must spare no effort to ensure business operators under their jurisdiction know how to properly label products.

Business operators that betray consumers’ trust will be subject to public criticism and punished socially through falling sales and a tarnished brand image. This was the main lesson to be learned from the latest series of false food descriptions.

Hotels and department stores have started to exercise more care regarding accurate food labeling at their own initiative, such as by reinforcing checks on food descriptions on their menus and holding lectures on the law concerning food product displays.

Over the New Year’s holidays, many people buy more food and eat out at restaurants more often than usual. We urge business operators to once again check whether any inappropriate food descriptions might have slipped through the cracks.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2013)
(2013年12月24日01時42分  読売新聞)


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