OSAKA — USJ Co., which runs the Universal Studios Japan theme park, provided food items with old expiration dates to all 21 restaurants in the facility from June 2001 to February, USJ officials said Thursday.

The officials said that 2 tons of expired food had been cooked during the period and that roughly 44 kinds had been kept as long as nine months beyond their expiration dates. The items were mostly frozen, kept frozen or dried, they added.

Takuo Ishizuka, the theme park’s master chef, said that in June 2001 he and the quality control manager of the catering section decided to extend the expiration dates after confirming the safety and taste of the food in question.

They resorted to the practice because they had miscalculated the amount of food that would be consumed at the restaurants when the theme park opened in March 2001. Two months after the opening, leftover food was already a problem, Ishizuka said, noting he could not afford to waste food that had already been purchased.

But after several food mislabeling scams came to light in January and February, Ishizuka said he and others in charge of food decided to stop serving the expired food. At the end of February, about 1.2 tons of the food, 1.6 million yen worth, were destroyed, he added.

President Akira Sakata claimed the company executives, including himself, were not aware of the decisions to use and then not to use the expired food, until last month, when a former worker at a warehouse where the food was stored doubted the propriety of the practice.

Sakata apologized at a news conference and vowed the practice would not be repeated.

By using the expired food, the company saved about 2 million yen, or 0.1 percent of the food consumed, between October and February, the officials said.

One day after USJ reported the incident, on Monday, Osaka City Hall looked into the matter but found no illegal conduct by USJ, a city official said. He added, however, that the behavior was problematic in that it had continued for a long period of time and that managers had not been informed of it.

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