Japanese should mend food ways

Regarding the Aug. 28 editorial titled “Reducing food loss“: I think that the editorial depicts a contradictory mind-set of the Japanese.

While they are well known for a strong sense of “mottainai” — regret concerning waste — they also have strong penchant for hygienic conditions and food safety, which have made them buy fresher food as much as possible regardless of whether the sell-by date or the period in which the food tastes best has matured or not. A lot of wholesalers and retailers have been suffering from this not so much tendency as obsession with freshness of food that they have no choice but to discard a lot of edible food to maintain their sales. I believe that this new measure will contribute to decreasing the amount of discarded food, to be sure, but consumers in Japan should mend their ways to avoid such an extraordinarily wasteful situation.

First, as we know, the food self-sufficiency rate in Japan is so low that it goes without saying that we should make a system in which they can utilize food efficiently. Second, such an excessive pursuit for fresh food may induce a fraudulent indication of sell-by dates and ingredients by wholesalers and retailers.

Finally, and I believe this is the focal point of the issue, to extend sell-by dates, the Japanese food industry has been developing so many food preservatives that a lot of food has become decay resistant or fails to properly mature, which evidently does Japanese citizens more harm than good. When I was a child, a piece of sliced bread used to breed fungus easily and sausages would often decay soon and taste bad, however, these days they do not. I hear that the safety standards for food preservatives in Japan are likely to be more lenient toward food makers than those of European Union countries.

I hope that this measure would contribute not only to decreasing the abhorrence of the amount of discarded food but also improving the health condition.

shuichi john watanabe
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.