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Osaka fabrics firm announces it altered product data only after practice was exposed

OSAKA -- Major textiles firm Unitika Ltd., which among other things produces polyester and non-woven fabric goods for kitchen and industrial use, announced on Aug. 28 that a total of 76 of its products had their inspection data altered.

Goods that did not meet the standards set out either internally by the firm or in consultation with its clients were reportedly shipped as being up to code. Because Unitika, based in the city of Osaka in western Japan, made the announcement only after the case was reported by some sections of the media, its disclosure has been seen by some as a cynical move.

Data alterations took place on five non-woven fabrics manufactured by Unitika, which are used in products including kitchen sink strainers and waterproof tape. In addition, data was altered on 71 polyester fibers that Unitika subsidiary Nippon Ester Co. produced to be used as a base material for non-woven products.

From August 2013 at the latest, the head of both companies' quality assurance department began altering data on the products' characteristics including their strength and flexibility as well as deleting information that did not meet standards.

In response to an internal investigation, the department head reportedly said, "(The alterations) were in order to meet deadlines. We didn't dispatch products that deviated significantly from standards."

After numerous reports of companies in its industry and other firms shipping sub-standard goods, Unitika newly established a product quality guarantee department in April 2018.

In October 2018, a survey relating to dishonest practices was carried out at both firms and other group businesses. It was reportedly then that the head of quality assurance declared the data alterations.

A public relations official at the company said, "There is no issue with safety (of the products). There have been no complaints from clients, and we have not broken the law."

It used those reasons to justify not publicly announcing the alterations or notifying its clients. Criticism of its decision not to release the information for close to a year is likely to grow.

On Aug. 28 the company apologized, saying, "We deeply regret that our perception of our products was insufficient. We will take thorough measures to ensure it is not repeated."

An external investigative committee established in February, which includes lawyers among its panel, is continuing its probe into the data falsification. It intends to publish an interim report on its findings around October this year.

(Japanese original by Yuki Tsurita, Osaka Business News Department)

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