retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times reports that Aeon, Japan’s second biggest retailer, has acknowledged that it “sold beef from cattle that ate nuclear-contaminated feed, the latest in a series of health scares from radiation leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant ... Aeon said it had sold the contaminated beef at a store in Tokyo and at more than a dozen stores in the surrounding area.” According to the story, “cattle from Fukushima Prefecture were given animal feed originating from rice straw that exceeded the government’s limits for radioactive cesium.”

At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports that Ito-Yokado,part of Seven & I Holdings Co. (the nation’s biggest retailer), said it sold 92 pounds of beef from an animal shipped from Fukushima prefecture and contaminated with radioactive cesium at two of its outlets in Chiba prefecture early in July.”

The story notes that “radiation continues to spill from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant more than four months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami,” and it is now expected that Japanese authorities will “ban cattle shipments from Fukushima prefecture, and possibly wider areas.”
KC's View:
The irony here is that Aeon has always been highly progressive in its food safety and traceability efforts. When I was there working on a video project for the old CIES Food Safety conference several years ago, they took great pride in showing me a system that allowed customers to use their smart phones and QR codes on products to get information about product sourcing, and they even had code numbers for every piece of Japanese beef sold in their stores so that customers could be assured that it had been tested for mad cow disease; in Japan, every piece of beef was being tested for BSE, even as the US was testing less than two percent of its beef.

That kind of transparency will serve Aeon well now ... it has a level of trust established with its customers, and hopefully it will continue to be both forthright and transparent in how it disseminates information.