Lawson: The Issue of Inconvenient Expiry Dates

Graphic of sushi.

A recent report by the Japan Times states that the convenience store franchise, Lawson, shut down two franchises in the Saitama prefecture near Tokyo, after it was revealed that they had been falsifying food expiration dates for several years. It is unknown if upper-level management was directly involved.

The company maintains 14,000 branches across the country. Lawson has not received any complaints from customers, concerning food poisoning, though the headquarters has pledged to be more involved in quality control from now on.

Japan is notorious for their unrivalled ‘konbinis’ (convenience stores) that manage to draw in a diverse clientele by boasting mouth-watering delights, be it their juicy cuts of Yakitori chicken, heated and ready to satiate the ravenous passer-by, or their neatly wrapped sandwiches with the pesky crusts, cut off; a lunch staple that also proved to be a popular hangover go-to among college students.

Having studied in Japan a few years back, I viewed Lawsons as more of a lifestyle than anything else. With one located, not too far from my Akita campus, making multiple trips a day was not uncommon. I never failed to stock up on sumptuous ‘onigiris’, molded rice that housed a tasty filling, encased with ‘nori’, known to the western world as seaweed. It was the perfect pick-me-up that I could savor while studying for my midterms.

As a customer, I never once stopped to think that perhaps the item I was purchasing, could have had a tampered expiry date, but rather the blind trust I placed in the brand and maybe Japan’s squeaky-clean reputation as an honest nation, led me to live in blissful ignorance.

While such practices are deemed dangerous and unethical for a reason, I must question whether or not, this news was truly shocking. I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve consumed a product, days after its supposed expiry date. (Refrigeration really does work wonders) That being said, the franchises still violated health-code regulations which could have resulted in serious ramifications.

If one chooses to eat expired food, they’re making an active choice to do so, even if it was safely stored away. If a store sells a customer expired produce through false pretenses, this is ultimately a decision that the store is making on behalf of the us, the stakeholders, ultimately putting our health at risk.