|Hotels including Ritz-Carlton duped by dodgy Japanese quality claims over food products
Japan's hotels, restaurants and food shops were being warned today over dishonest labelling amid a growing scandal.
The direction comes as top department stores became the latest Japanese firms to admit they had been selling food with labels falsely claiming high-quality or expensive ingredients, AFp reports.
“It's extremely regrettable as it seriously undermines consumer confidence,’’chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
“The Consumer Affairs Agency will take strict actions under the law [against misleading representations],'' he said.
He was speaking after luxury department store chain Takashimaya admitted that for years labels claiming the use of top-of-the-range prawns or freshly-squeezed orange juice sat on produce made with inferior ingredients.
For example, the department store used giant tiger prawns to make a “Japanese tiger prawn’’ terrine, sold under the luxury French brand Fauchon.
Japanese tiger prawn is widely considered a top shrimp and one that can command premium prices, while giant tiger prawns are more widely available.
The company insisted that the wide range of false labelling were honest mistakes, echoing excuses from a string of hotels that had long served meals claiming quality ingredients that were not part of the dish.
Whatever their excuses, “the fact remains they deceived consumers by making their products seem more luxurious than in reality,'' the Asahi Shimbun said in a front-page commentary, calling for tougher regulations.
A number of major hotel chains including Hankyu Hanshin Hotels, which operates the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Osaka among others, have admitted that their restaurants have long falsely labelled food on their menus.
The Ritz-Carlton Osaka has admitted that it also used cheaper prawns while the menu claimed the expensive species, among other falsehoods.
Tokyu Hotels, which operates 45 hotels, also admitted Tuesday that 22 of its restaurants and seven banquet facilities have misleading food labels, largely involving shrimps and steak meat.
Hotel New Otani Kumamoto also said it too used cheaper shrimps and meat but claimed them as high-end.
A traditional ryokan-style hotel in the ancient capital of Nara also said it used Australian beef but labelled it as “wagyu'', high-end Japanese beef, among other things.
Since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, that spread clouds of radiation over a swathe of Japanese farmland, Japanese produce has been shunned around the globe for fear they are tainted.