108 previously discarded food products found at scandal-tainted firm in Gifu

JIJI, Kyodo

The Gifu Prefectural Government said it has discovered an additional 108 food products that were supposed to have been discarded stored at a company at the center of the tainted cutlet scandal.

The additional products were found at Minori Fuzu, the company based in Hashima, Gifu Prefecture, already found to be in possession of products discarded by curry restaurant chain Ichibanya Co.

Minori Fuzu is known to have procured discarded Ichibanya products from the waste disposal firm Daiko in the neighboring prefecture of Aichi and sold them to retailers and others. The scandal broke last week when Ichibanya said some of its dumped products had been found in retail stores.

The head of Daiko has admitted that the company sold the discarded Ichibanya products, a lawyer for Daiko said Tuesday.

The 108 products, most of which had already passed their best-by dates, were frozen foods and products that can be stored at normal temperature, such as seasonings. The oldest best-by date was September 2007.

Among the 108 was sliced frozen tuna discarded by the Japanese Consumers’ Cooperative Union.

Minori Fuzu held 96 boxes of the product, totaling 532 kg, with a best-by date of April 2015 indicated on the boxes.

The union discarded 2 tons of the product at the end of April, all of which were acquired by Daiko. Suspecting that the remaining 1.5 tons has already been sold to other parties, the Gifu Prefectural Government is warning consumers to be careful.

Other products found this time at Minori Fuzu included grilled chicken, deep fried vegetables and miso paste.

A senior manager at Minori Fuzu said the company bought all 108 products from Daiko.

“Even if they were past their expiration dates they could be used for sampling, so we distributed them. We didn’t know they were due for disposal,” he said.

The 78-year-old manager also said Minori Fuzu started doing business with Daiko in 2011 when it first bought coarse fish from Fukushima that had gone unsold following the nuclear crisis.

The manager said he became acquainted with the head of Daiko around the same time the March 2011 earthquake occurred, through a mutual friend.

“The coarse fish (he offered) was still within its expiration date so we sold it boiled in soy sauce,” the manager told reporters.

The manager also said he later purchased frozen foods and miso soup paste that Daiko had acquired from Marukome Inc., based in the city of Nagano.

The man said he had once contacted the producer directly, but Daiko intervened and warned the manager not to ask any more questions.

Minori Fuzu later resold most of the products purchased from Daiko to other buyers in Nagoya.

The Gifu Prefectural Government asked 10 prefectures and 11 cities where the producers and original sellers of the 108 products are located to start investigations to identify who distributed the products and what routes were used.

The prefecture also said that last week it carried out surprise inspections at all 21 facilities of the waste disposal firms in the prefecture that handle discarded food. No inappropriate sales of dumped foods were uncovered, officials said.