Natto-Smelling Muffins Make a Stink at Tokyo Design Festa

Natto-Smelling Muffins Make a Stink at Tokyo Design Festa

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Smelly muffins
Pictures: *hanabiyori*; よぴんこ(yopinco) / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
A set of stinky muffins that smelled like a classic (and stinky) Japanese food caused an online stir - and even elicited death threats.

A design festival in Tokyo became host to an unfortunate incident of food poisoning from what customers describe as particularly foul-smelling muffins. The incident exploded online – and even sparked death threats.

Who ordered the natto-smelling muffins? (Answer: Nobody)

Picture: midori_chan / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

The incident occurred at Tokyo Design Festa, an international art event held at the city’s famous Big Site convention center. The muffins in question were sold by a sweets shop, HoneyxHoney xoxo, based in the city’s Meguro Ward.

The first signs that something was amiss appeared online on November 11th, as people took to services like X (formerly Twitter) to complain about the muffin’s taste, texture, and smell. Many said the goods had a foul taste and a stinky smell.

Pictured shared on SNS showed the muffins containing long, silky threads when pulled apart – not unlike natto, the traditional Japanese dish made of fermented soybeans. Which is fine for natto (if you’re into it) but not what you expect from a muffin.

One customer told reporters that she filed a claim after her son felt sick from eating one. The incident led numerous people to complain to the shop. However, despite the complaints, the store kept selling the muffins at Design Festa the next day.

An advertisement for the muffins online touted how they had “no additives,” relying on the sugar to act as a preservative. However, the ad also said the muffins used half as much sugar as store-bought muffins, which would lower the preservation effect.


A 3,000 muffin recall – and a death threat?

After receiving a raft of complaints, the Tokyo Health Department swooped into the Meguro-based store on the evening of the 15th. Authorities reportedly spent two hours inspecting the site and taking photographs.

Based on these photos and interviews with store personnel, it seems the shop only had one person who could bake for the event. So they began preparing the muffins five days in advance. (They advertised them at the event as “freshly baked”.) They then stored them, not in a refrigerator, but in an air-conditioned room set to about 18 degrees Celsius. Experts say that’s a perfect setup for the muffins going bad.

On the 16th, the store took to its Instagram to issue a public apology and state that it was conducting a voluntary recall of 3,000 baked goods it had shipped to various stores. The goods include the store’s walnut muffins and nine other types of products.

The owner asked that anyone sending muffins back to the store do so as a prepaid shipment rather than cash on delivery because they’d received death threats in their name.

The store’s Instagram apparently had a series of other posts as the incident unfolded. However, it’s since deleted every post from its account except the apology, which has over 400 likes and almost 1,000 comments.

The Health Department classified the poison danger from the rotten muffins as Class 1. It’s the highest designation and is the same class used for fugu fish and poisonous mushrooms.

Food safety: No laughing matter in Japan

This isn’t the first incident of mass food poisoning in Japan this year. In September, a somen shop apologized after it used contaminated river water at a nagashi-somen event. The incident sicked at least 93 people but, thankfully, did not result in any fatalities.

Japan takes food health seriously and any threat to food safety tends to spark an uproar and swift public condemnation. This was on display earlier this year when a string of “sushi terrorism” incidents at conveyor sushi belt chains revolted the nation. The incidents led several major chain conveyor shops to change how they serve food permanently.

The Top 5 “Solitary Gourmet” Spots in Tokyo


デザフェスで“糸引くマフィン”販売の焼き菓子店、営業停止を公表「なんとお詫びすればいいかわかりません」. AllAbout

“臭いマフィン”に食中毒疑い 無添加うたうも5日前に製造か…冷蔵保存せず. ANN News

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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