[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Journal ]
Messages from "Economic Trend", November 2007

"Food Safety" Considered from Global Perspective

Kouichi IKEDA
Vice Chairman of the Board of Councillors, Nippon Keidanren
Chairman of the Board and CEO, Asahi Breweries, Ltd.

Agricultural projects we have undertaken in China's Shandong Province are proceeding well. Following the start of shipments of lettuce, sweet corn and strawberries, breeding of milk cows has begun.

In May last year, Asahi Breweries, Ltd. set up an agricultural corporation in Laiyang, Shandong Province, jointly with Itochu Corp. and Sumitomo Chemical Co., and we are managing large-scale agricultural operations in cooperation with the provincial government. We have introduced advanced techniques and approaches, such as securing of traceability of products and recycling-based farming, in order to produce agricultural products that meet growing needs in urban areas in China for safe and reliable foods with good taste, and to supply these products throughout China under thorough quality control. We thereby wish to contribute to an improvement in Chinese people's culinary life.

Meanwhile, safety concerns about Chinese products have emerged as a major issue. Now that China has become the world's third largest trading country, products made there could have a huge impact on countries around the world. We hope that the Chinese government will make efforts to enhance food safety.

On the other hand, Japanese companies also have a major role to play in this regard. Relations with China are critical for Japan's economy and industry. Japanese store shelves are full of Chinese products. "Food safety" is not merely a domestic issue, and it must be tackled from a global perspective.

The first thing to do is to adopt more rigorous standards for food imports. The "positive list system," which was introduced last year based on the experiences of the problem of agrochemical residues in Chinese-produced spinach that arose five years ago, has been effective to a certain degree. Awareness about food safety appears to have grown in Chinese regions producing agricultural products for shipment to Japan.

Furthermore, Japanese companies, whose products have been subjected to the close scrutiny of the world's most selective consumers, should provide the knowledge and know-how they have acquired to China. That is an important mission of agricultural projects undertaken by Asahi Breweries in China.

Nonetheless, Japan itself experienced a series of corporate scandals that shook confidence in food safety again this year. For Japan to ensure food safety, implementing thoroughgoing quality control in the country itself is the prerequisite. From the lessons learned from various past incidents that undermined confidence in food safety, Japanese companies must have recognized that securing consumers' confidence is essential for their survival. It is a critical mission of corporate managers to foster a corporate culture that respects the principles of "Quality First" and "Compliance with Law."

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