• Kyodo

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Co-op Kobe, Japan’s biggest consumer cooperative, said Tuesday it will resume buying products from the Nippon Meat Packers Inc. group around Saturday.

The decision follows a farm ministry announcement Monday that it has lifted its ban on the meat packer’s beef-related operations after the firm, better known as Nippon Ham, and its subsidiary became embroiled in a beef-mislabeling scandal.

Co-op Kobe was among the retailers that removed Nippon Ham products from its store shelves after the scandal broke in early August. The Kobe-based co-op operates 154 outlets for its 1.42 million members, mainly in the Kansai region centering on Osaka and Kobe.

Before the scandal, it received about 10 percent of the products it handles from the Nippon Ham group.

Co-op officials said they decided to resume business with the group due to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry’s move. They said they also found as sufficient Nippon Ham’s measures to prevent further fraudulent activity.

“We see strong determination on the part of the company to improve its management,” one of the officials said.

Shutting out Nippon Ham products until now was a sufficient way to impress upon the group that it has a moral obligation, the officials said. They said the co-op was further satisfied after the farm ministry found no more deceptions during its late-August inspections.

In early August, Nippon Food Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Nippon Ham, was found to have disguised imported beef as domestic to swindle the government out of subsidies under a public beef-buyback program that was launched to help beef producers hit hard by the mad cow disease outbreak in domestic cattle last September.

Nippon Ham was forced to suspend beef-related operations amid strong criticism from consumers, retailers and the farm ministry.

The parent firm’s top officials resigned over the scandal, and the farm ministry is expected to file criminal complaints against some officials at the subsidiary.

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