Regarding the July 1 Kyodo article “UNESCO listing for Japan fare?“: While it is apparent that Japanese authorities need to do what they can to promote safe Japanese food products in the aftermath of the recent tragic events in Japan, I am concerned, after reading this article, that too much emphasis is being placed on presenting Japanese products to the world as “unique” — to maintain the livelihoods of farmers — at the expense of ensuring that the food itself really is safe.
Those who are responsible for marketing Japanese food products should be investing their energy in dealing with the substance of the current problem — food safety — not the more superficial aspects of product promotion. Otherwise, they risk being seen as cynically concerned about economic benefits only.
Japanese food regulation authorities need to be able to prove to everyone that they are monitoring agricultural and marine food resources closely, identifying those that are not safe and removing from sale what is not safe.
This process needs to be undertaken with the utmost honesty and transparency. Sadly, this does not always appear to be the case, as with recent tea exports to Europe, which were known to exporters, before being shipped, to have exceeded food radioactivity limits.
Such openness is as much for the sake of Japanese producers and consumers as it is for those outside Japan. Promoting Japanese products, without also guaranteeing that those same products are 100 percent safe for human consumption, is utterly callous and irresponsible and, in the long term, detrimental to Japan’s food production industry. Carelessness or deception will lead to a lack of consumer confidence, a decline in sales and eventual loss of markets altogether.
Let the whole world have a demonstration of Japanese exporters’ and food regulation bodies’ clear and unequivocal commitment to national and international public health and safety before their commitment to “Japaneseness.”
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.
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