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    Slippery ones

    Like crossword puzzle writers, the Japanese love their eels. They are, I believe, easy to breed, and Japan came to import a lot of them from the PRC. Of course, the product scandals of the last year have lowered the value of imports from China; the latest food labeling scandal involves trying to pass them off as more prestigious domestic products:

    The fisheries ministry Wednesday issued business improvement orders to two companies that mislabeled tons of eels imported from China and pretended they came from a Japanese region famed for its eel products.

    Osaka-based trader Uohide and Kobe-based seafood wholesaler Shinko Gyorui Ltd. even used the name of a fictitious manufacturer under the scheme to win higher prices for domestic eels, especially those from Isshiki, Aichi Prefecture, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

    According to the ministry’s investigation, the two companies sold at least 390,000 eels, or 49 tons, imported from China as domestic products.

    The ministry also suspended shipment of 540 tons of mislabeled eels stored at Uohide facilities and 207 tons at warehouses of Shinko Gyorui, a wholly owned subsidiary of seafood industry leader Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc.

    “A case of food mislabeling, which even uses a dummy company to sell products, is unprecedented and should be viewed as extremely malicious,” a ministry official said.

    *******

    The average market price for a kilogram of imported kabayaki eels, or about eight eels, is between 1,800 and 1,900 yen ($17 and $18). Domestic products sell for between 4,000 yen and 5,000 yen per kg.

    Setting up a shell company to disguise mislabeling may be unprecedented in Japan, but the maliciousness isn’t; see the linked post below.

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