How is the recent situation regarding food poisoning in developed countries? Annual round number of fatalities resulting from food poisoning is 3,000 in the United States, 500 in the United Kingdom, and 120 in Australia (Table 1).
In Japan, only a few people result in death in annual average. The number is astonishingly small considering the fact that Japanese population is about twice as many as that of the United Kingdom.
In other words, Japan can be said the world’s runaway leader in food safety issues. It was only in the chaos of the postwar period of about a decade when around 500 people died of food poisoning per year. After that, the number dropped dramatically and has been maintained low to this day.
What is more surprising is that even though domestic food safety is already guaranteed, Japan is the number one country, except for incommensurable China, in the number of companies that have obtained ISO22000 certification (Fig. 1).
The numbers of food-poisoning incidents and fatalities in Japan have stayed about the same for four decades. That means Japan has been keeping the position as a leader in the food-safety pursuance before these certification schemes were even established.
However, in recent years, many of the Japanese major manufacturers and their business partners are further trying to obtain FSSC22000 certification and build its execution system.
Safety and security of food has already reached a very high level in Japan. For such country, the value of obtaining such certifications should lie in maintaining, not achieving, the high level. Some facts show that serious incidents may occur if you focus too much on obtaining and preserving such certifications.
Of course there is nothing wrong with obtaining international certifications. However, if we mistakenly assume that obtainment of the certifications is the ultimate goal, Japan’s current high level cannot possibly be maintained. Once building an in-house quality control system, it is important to keep an eye on the situation of the production site and dealing flexibly with the changes without being restricted by the system. Not only systems, but delicate feelings sometimes play an important role. In Japan, safety and security of food has been assured at the world’s highest level since several decades before international certifications were introduced. Taking this fact into consideration, we should realize that daily education and awareness, which serve as a secure foundation for food safety, are very important.