Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Tokyo Govt Mulls Regulating Food Vendors

Newspaper article The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)

Tokyo Govt Mulls Regulating Food Vendors

Article excerpt

The Tokyo metropolitan government is considering regulations on street vendors of bento lunch boxes, a favorite among workers in business districts struggling to find a place to eat lunch.

The number of such street vendors have surged in the past 10 years, partly due to an increase in the number of workers in business districts.

But fearing possible food poisoning cases, the metropolitan government is considering toughening regulations on the industry because sanitation measures of many such vendors are considered insufficient and some conduct business without notifying the authorities.

The city government's Food Safety Conference, which discusses how such businesses should be operated, compiled an interim report about reinforcing sanitation measures by revising local ordinances and other means.

One day, more than 10 wagons and small trucks lined the streets of Tokyo's Nihonbashi business district selling many lunch boxes containing such entrees as miso-boiled saba mackerel and fried chicken cutlets.

All the lunch boxes were priced at about 500. yen Shingo Inoue, a 35-year-old company employee who waited in a long line to buy a lunch box, said he patronizes the street vendors at least four times a week.

Inoue said: "Restaurants around here are so packed that I can't even go in. Bento lunch boxes are reasonably priced and buying them is convenient."

Street sales of bento is categorized as "gyosho" (peddling) under the metropolitan government's ordinance to control dining-related businesses. The ordinance was originally established on the assumption that stores near such facilities as baseball parks sell small quantities of foodstuffs within a short period of time, and therefore do not require sanitary regulations.

In Tokyo, any vendor can operate such a business by notifying public health centers of their plans. Similarly, in Hokkaido, Saitama Prefecture and four other prefectures, notifications or registrations are obliged to conduct such businesses. In other prefectures, however, there are no such requirements.

There were 263 registered lunch box street vendors in Tokyo in 2002. The number surged to 542 in 2012.

Construction of office buildings in central Tokyo has increased and the demand for lunches climbed, but it has become difficult for food delivery people to freely enter the buildings as security has become stricter, according to sources with knowledge of the industry.

The boom in street vendors has brought new problems.

This summer, the Tokyo metropolitan government conducted a study on 260 street vendors of lunch boxes in central Tokyo and found that nearly 20 percent of them had not reported their business to health authorities.

Officials in charge of the research checked 95 randomly selected lunch boxes and detected bacteria levels exceeding the metropolitan government's sanitation standards in about 40 percent of the products. …

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