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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:54 03/09/2007
News Review #379: January 18, 2007

Scandal Wipes Smile from "Peko-chan's" Face

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Scandal Wipes Smile from "Peko-chan's" Face


At first, it was a small report, saying that a certain lot of cream puffs produced at one of the factories was produced using old milk. The company's response at the time was that the milk was (only) "one day" older than what the internal standards required it to be, and it happened because an inexperienced worker with insufficient knowledge of the rules failed to check the date the milk was produced, combined with a rare case of oversight by the supervisor in charge.

Small mistakes do occur, and there was no one becoming ill from consuming the cake. It could have been dismissed as a small unfortunate incident in accordance with what the company claimed it to be at first, if the company were to make public announcement to the effect that the incident had occurred, ask the people if there had been any problems and respond sincerely to the questions, explain what exactly happened and what measures were implemented to prevent it from happening again.

In fact, there was another confectionary manufacturer which recently shipped walnut based candies contaminated with tiny pebbles. The company immediately made a public announcement fully explaining the situation, and, other than a minor dent in sales and reputation, the company was dismissed from further accusations.

But in the case of Fujiya, it evolved as a quite different story. The news following the initial report said that there a number of incidents in the past few months ignoring health standards at various levels and the executives were notified of them in November, but no action was taken. (It was later revealed that the executives issued a gag order to prohibit the employees from talking about it.)

Public outrage began to emerge at this point, demanding for more information while stop purchasing Fujiya brand of not only cakes but all sorts of candies the company sells, and also began to avoid dining at restaurants the company runs.

It was followed by an avalanche of reports of every sort of messy, rule breaking actions committed by the company, and evidence of disobediences to official orders issued by local governments and health authorities. At the moment, the situation is a chaos.

Fujiya was established in 1910 as a confectionery company. It remained to this day as a family-run business, and the present CEO - announced to be resigning soon because of the incident - is a grandson of the founder. 'Peko-chan' has been a mascot of the company for nearly 60 years and there is virtually no one over 60 years of age raised in Japan without some memory related to Peko-chan and its life-size doll standing in front of candy stores together with the smooth sweetness of 'Milky," Fujiya's main line of candies for more than half a century.

Probably in response to the public outrage rather then safety concerns, major outlets and candy stores cleared their shelves of all Fujiya candies including 'Milky.' Aside from directly run shops, there are hundreds of franchisees across the country selling Fujiya cakes that have been forced to close, to which the company announced to compensate for the loss of sales. These are going to cost dearly for the company. There have been reports of workers - most of them being part-timers - becoming nervous.

The effect, if the company were to run into further trouble, would seem to be far greater than the apparent financial figures indicate. And this is all because of the sloppy management.

The company's website currently carries a message that other than the specific cakes reported as produced improperly, their products are safe and expect people to consume them. It is almost amusing that the company still does not realize what the real problem is - that it is hiding and lying and the apparent malicious intention behind such behaviors that the people are condemning far more than the fact that it shipped the cake using one-day-old milk. It is the company's credibility that has been shattered, and until it is restored - at least partially - whatever the company claims - such as the safety of other products - would only dissolve into froth of words.

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