Almost exactly a year ago (on July 27, 2013), this column reported on how the print media was inundated with concerns over the safety of foods from abroad. Among the sources cited was Takarajima magazine, which quoted a foodstuffs importer as saying, "The decline of morals due to the pursuit of profits is occurring on a worldwide scale, and has become a major issue in need of review."

Those remarks proved prophetic. Husi Food Co., Ltd. of Shanghai, owned by the OSI Group of Aurora, Illinois, found itself in trouble last month after a reporter from Shanghai's Dragon TV infiltrated its processing plant and shot video footage that left little doubt its workers were repackaging expired beef and chicken products, which were shipped to McDonald's and other customers in China, Hong Kong and Japan. China reportedly accounted for 38 percent of the chicken products procured by McDonald's Japan last year (as opposed to 62 percent from Thailand).

McDonald's Japan immediately shifted to damage-control mode. Announcements promptly went up at the entrances of outlets that sales of the items in question would be suspended pending further notice. On July 29, company CEO Sarah Casanova appeared on TV to state, "The news ... was incredibly disturbing to us, appalling, ... completely unacceptable." "What happened ... was a willful deception of a few employees," she added, and proceeded to reassure consumers that her company — whose sales were already slumping months before the present scandal — would cease to source ingredients from China.