With the arrest of a factory worker in China for the poisoning of frozen gyoza (dumplings) exported to Japan two years ago, the issue of food safety once again makes an appearance in the news. At the time the poisoning came to light there was a concerted push for consumers to buy domestic and for domestic producers to be more honest in the way they presented their merchandise, but once the scare died down most people went back to buying whatever was cheapest, and that usually meant imported from China.
One of the companies that imported the tainted gyoza was Co-op, a food cooperative that is also called Seikyo, which is short for seikatsu kyodo kumiai (life cooperative unions). Traditionally, these organizations were collections of neighbors who bought produce and meat and fish in bulk and then divided the shipment among themselves. These collectives eventually morphed into groups that were structured like membership clubs and in recent decades many have been at the forefront of a kind of back-to-the-land movement, stressing organic farming that uses less or no agrichemicals, fair prices for farmers, and greater environmental awareness in distribution and packaging. The gyoza scandal was thus a huge black eye, at least for Seikyo.
Three of the more conscientious coops available to residents of the greater Tokyo metropolitan area are Pal System (part of Seikyo), Radish Boya and Daichi. The mechanisms are all the same: You order the products you want (mostly food, but also personal care and household products) through order sheets or over the Internet and they are delivered to your home.