Akafuku hit by fresh food safety allegations

Kyodo

Time-honored confectioner Akafuku Co. faced fresh allegations of poor food safety Saturday after it was revealed last week that it was falsifying production dates for its bean-jam sweets for more than 30 years.

People familiar with Akafuku’s Nagoya factory said some of the unsold product was repackaged for delivery without being frozen, despite earlier claims by the factory that unsold goods were stored frozen before being going to market again.

The Mie Prefectural Government conducted an inspection of company’s head office in Ise, Mie Prefecture, the same day after the latest allegation was revealed to Nagoya city officials.

Meanwhile, farm ministry sources said Akafuku had established a practice of unfreezing bean-jam sweets in the evening a day before shipment and printing the next day as their production date, farm ministry sources said Saturday.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry confirmed the problem during an inspection Friday after the company was ordered the same day to suspend business for breaking the food sanitation law, the sources said.

Although no consumer health problems have been reported, the practice suggests the true expiration dates for its products likely differed from the dates on their labels. The legal expiration date for “Akafuku” bean-jam sweets is two days after production in summer, and three days in winter.

The sweets are widely sold as souvenirs to visitors to Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture.

The company, whose business dates back 300 years in Ise, has recently been under fire for printing the day it thaws the products as the production date for more than 30 years. The products were kept refrigerated for up to 14 days after production.

But the newly uncovered practice of printing the next day as the production date is much more serious and is a clear case of false labeling under the Japan Agriculture Standards Law.

The ministry suspects the company deliberately hid the problem because it did not disclose it in past inspections.

Akafuku was ordered to suspend operations for retrieving unsold products from retail outlets, refrigerating, rewrapping and putting new production dates on them, and then shipping them out again.

It has also admitting to separating bean jam and rice cakes from withdrawn products and reusing the jam.

Its affiliated confectioner, Wagashi-Masuya, also based in Ise, said Saturday that it used Akafuku’s separated bean jams between May 2000 and January this year, and that the jams accounted for about 30 percent of the ingredients in its products.