Traceability vital to Japanese consumers

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Friday, March 23, 2007

Beef traceability is regarded as an important and necessary system among safety conscious Japanese consumers.

This is a result of a survey conducted by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The domestic beef traceability system, or ‘Indication and Relay of Individual Identification Numbers on Designated Beef’, has been enforced in Japan since December 2004. Under this system, consumers are able to trace individual cattle information (limited to domestically produced beef only) such as date and place of birth, sex, type of cattle and where/when the animal was slaughtered, by accessing a designated website and entering a ten digit identification code that is indicated on a retail package label.

The survey revealed that only 35% of respondents were “familiar with the traceability system”. However, the majority (81%) believes that the current system is required and should be continued, in order to “eat Japanese beef without safety concerns” (72%) and to “maintain appropriate labeling and identification of domestic beef” (51%). The system is also regarded useful to “prevent BSE from spreading” (41%).

Although few people actually utilized the internet service (only 6% of total respondents) to check the identification number, the survey results indicate that the transparency and readiness to provide safety information are an important key to win consumers’ confidence. Some Japanese supermarkets have set up computer terminals on their shop floor so that consumers can view their safety messages or access the identification website if they wish.

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