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Eating Right


Starting in 2001, I have been doing translation work for a Japanese company that gives training is food safety. This is important because it was just at that time that the HACCP Regulations went into effect. What are they? Rules covering the hygienic handling of food served in restaurants.

HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points. The regulations were outlined in a bill passed by the US Congress in 1999 which went into effect in 2000. The government of the United States was concerned with the fact that two million people in America are sickened by food-borne illnesses every year and five thousand die as a result. The HACCP Regulations were designed to help alleviate this problem.

The states were given latitude to implement the regulations in the way that they saw fit. In California a system was adopted whereby restaurants were given designations of A, B or C depending upon how they fared during inspections by the health department.

In Los Angeles, one result was that there was a crackdown on sushi bars. Apparently it was feared that raw fish served there was a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria and the addition of rice in the preparation only made the problem worse. Japanese restaurants were being closed right and left. It was a bad situation because the HACCP Regulations were so new that neither the authorities nor the restaurants knew exactly how to deal with the matter. But in the restaurants’ case, inadequate comprehension of English left the owners, managers, chefs and employees in a quandary as to how to respond. It did not help that the regulations can be highly technical in their wording. Even native English speakers can find the regulations difficult to understand at times.


That is where the company I did translation for came in. It set up classes to teach the restaurants how to address the situation. Working with the Food and Drug Administration, courses were set up to enable the attendees to pass the FDA certification examination. If they passed the test, participants were awarded FDA certificates acknowledging that. The certificates could be displayed in the restaurants, showing inspectors from the health department that the restaurant had been conscientious in addressing concerns about hygiene.

I have been translating this material for 16 years. This has given me a fairly good understanding off the subject. So recently, in an attempt to extend the reach of this effort, the company asked me to translate some of this material into Japanese.

Now, although I have been a professional Japanese interpreter/translator for more than 35 years, Japanese is not my native language. Not only that, but I have never lived in Japan, so occasionally when I express even simple ideas, the phraseology comes out awkwardly. I have to work very hard to make sure that the wording is correct. This is much more of a problem than when I translate from Japanese to English.

I was asked to translate nine examinations comprised of 85 questions. Here is one example:

70. 危害分析(に基づく)重要管理点(監視)方式(HACCP = Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points)の計画を開発するまずの処置は・・・

a. 不可欠の限度を定めます

b. 危険を査定します

c. 危険を検査します

d. 重要管理点を証明します

In the end, translating each one of the examinations required 10,000 words (by Microsoft Word word count). In a month I translated about 30,000 words.

This is exhausting work. At this point I have told the company to find someone else to do the work. I cannot imagine translating the other six examinations.

Actually, the company is happy to finish without me. This happens in translation work all the time. After I have created a master file with the key words defined, other Japanese people can do the work without much trouble. The basic problem is that English is such a difficult language for Japanese people that they do not know where to start.

And this experience has convinced me that I no longer want to devote myself to translation work. It is simply too difficult and the rewards are too small. It took me ten years to master just the basics of Japanese. Then another ten years to understand the subtleties.

So what will I do instead? I was looking at the postings on craigslist yesterday when I came upon one that pointed to the following website:


This looks intriguing. When I first went to Japan I had already mastered the basics of the language and since I was still working in the aircraft leasing business, I was not interested in the opportunities offered. However, now that my knowledge of Japanese and the culture of Japan is much greater, I am more intrigued at the possibilities. I also have a much wider range of contacts that I can take advantage of.


So goodbye to HACCP! I cannot say that it was fun knowing you, but I suppose that as a learning experience you have value. On the other hand, like the mathematical equations that I had to learn in school, I cannot see how it can have any relevance to my life.

The funny thing is this: after all these years of implementation of the HACCP Regulations, the number of Americans contracting food-borne illnesses as well as the number dying has not decreased by an appreciable amount. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Those who wish to comment on the opinions expressed here may send their thoughts to info@GoWizardry.com. The most interesting responses will be addressed in future postings.

Robert J. Terry

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