May 23, 2017
Tokyo- Local governments are struggling to deal with stores of emergency foods near the use-by dates, after boosting stockpiles in the wake of recent natural disasters across Japan.
The Tokyo metropolitan government this year launched major efforts to avoid wasting survival foods approaching the use-by dates, including by free distribution at public events. Despite such initiatives, at least 2.9 million items may pass their expiration dates in the nation's capital in the second half of fiscal 2020.
The Tokyo government distributed some 60,000 packages of survival biscuits for free to visitors at events held in January and February, in the first campaign of its kind, jointly organized by its Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health, responsible for the stockpiling of disaster suppliers for evacuation shelters, and its Environment Bureau, which tackles the issue of food waste. Governor Yuriko Koike spoke on a television program to support the campaign.
"When we offered biscuits, people asked us why and we had conversations with them," an official involved said, noting that the distribution program helped increase public awareness of efforts to avoid the waste of stockpiled emergency foods.
In a related initiative, the Tokyo government appealed for organizations willing to accept survival foods near the use-by dates and distributed 670,000 items before expiration in February and April.
But such free distribution is a "desperate measure" and not enough to tackle the huge stockpiles of food, the official admitted.
The metropolitan government did not find it easy to collect full details of existing survival foods as they are stockpiled at warehouses in 21 locations in Tokyo and also kept by municipalities in the capital, the official added.
Organizations that accepted survival foods signed statements that they would not sell them and the items would be consumed before the use-by dates. But there is no guarantee that such pledges will be honored.
In Tokyo, some 500,000 emergency food items for consumption at evacuation centers expire on average annually, according to the Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health. While items near the end-dates are offered to those taking part in disaster drills or fed to cattle, some 80 pct are thrown away.
The Tokyo government previously planned to distribute such items to developing countries, but the plan was dropped due to the cost of transportation and the lack of ways to prevent recipients from selling them on.
Stockpiles of emergency provisions in Tokyo, the most populated of Japan's 47 prefectures, have been increasing since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated coastal areas in the Tohoku northeastern region. (Jiji Press)
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