ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailPositive ArrowIcon PrintSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Business

Tokyo asks Beijing to set record straight on food imports

Chinese consumer show's Fukushima claim sparks friction with Japan

The CCTV show wasn't shy about naming names.

TOKYO -- Japan's government has requested that China provide accurate information to its public after a program on state television claimed that banned imports of Japanese foods were being sold there.

"We have been communicating with the Chinese side so that correct information will be provided in China," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference Tuesday.

With Japanese businesses there scrambling to respond to the show's claims, the March 15 report on China Central Television has become a new source of bilateral friction.

The segment on a popular consumer affairs show had claimed that Japanese food products covered by an import ban were still available in China. The ban, imposed after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in northeastern Japan, applies to foods from Fukushima and as far away as Tokyo.

But the report appears to have mistaken the Japanese companies' headquarters for where the products were actually made.

Aeon pulled imported Japanese foods from its roughly 60 supermarkets on the mainland. The Japanese retailer plans to resume sales after confirming the origin of each item. But as of noon Tuesday, they remained absent from the shelves.

In Beijing, an Aeon store-based fair showcasing products from Okinawa was delayed from the planned date of Saturday, despite the southernmost Japanese prefecture's great distance from Fukushima.

"There should not be any problem with Okinawan products, since the prefecture is outside the import ban area," an Aeon official said. But the company apparently made its decision out of a desire to avoid confusion so soon after the TV report.

Ryohin Keikaku, the company behind Muji stores, saw some of its products specifically accused of skirting the import ban. It said the next day that the items named in the report were not produced in the banned prefectures. Muji locations in China continue to sell them as usual.

Pushing back softly

The Japanese Embassy in Beijing distributed a document Friday to inform Chinese consumers. All Japanese food products exported to China for events undergo strict checks of their origin, it assures readers. But back in Tokyo, there are strong concerns in the government of potential reputational damage to Japanese businesses.

The incident is "extremely regrettable" and "most troubling," said Yuji Yamamoto, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, in a news conference Tuesday, describing the report as "based on a misunderstanding."

Visiting Beijing on Saturday, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda met with Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Kong Xuanyou and sought understanding for Japanese rules on origin labeling for food products.

Tokyo has not lodged an official protest at this point, hoping to avoid a full-blown confrontation. It knows that this is a politically sensitive time for a China that will select new leadership this fall at the Communist Party's twice-a-decade National Congress.

But some in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party want Japan to take a "tough stance" if Beijing does not offer a satisfactory response, a high-ranking LDP official said.

(Nikkei)

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 1 month for $0.99

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends July 31st

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media