News On Japan

Bento boss apologizes for 500 cases of food poisoning

TOKYO, Oct 22 (News On Japan) - The president of the bento (boxed lunch) maker "Yoshidaya", responsible for over 500 cases of food poisoning nationwide last month, held his first press conference and gave a tearful apology.

Yoshidaya had outsourced the production of rice to an external contractor.

President Hiroshiro Yoshida explained, "Despite specifying the temperature for the rice, we did not measure its temperature on the first day of receiving it. We stored the rice as it was until the time of serving. We did not fully understand that under improper temperature management, there was a risk of bacteria proliferating over time. We deeply realize our immense responsibility for this incident."

The rice was warmer than usual when served, so they decided to cool it down before using it.

According to experts, "Even if cooled, the bacteria don't die, which can lead to food poisoning."

Additionally, the health department has pointed out that the containers for the rice were brought in without sterilization, and there was insufficient hand sanitation.

The number of food poisoning cases due to Yoshidaya's bento stands at 521. As the bentos were also sold at events, victims were identified across 29 prefectures nationwide. During the press conference, it was mentioned that one of the causes was over-expansion beyond their production capacity. The backdrop appears to be the business downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president went on to say, "Prioritizing sales was my naivety as a manager. From the standpoint of providing for my employees, I made such a decision. I understand that I pushed them too hard."

Choking back tears and struggling for words at times, he confirmed that they would follow the health department's guidance and work on improving their operations.

He affirmed, "We will never outsource rice again."

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