Top Japanese television executives have abjectly apologised for airing a programme based on fabricated data that sparked a run on natto -- sticky fermented soybeans -- at stores across the country.
The show, made by Kansai Telecasting Corp (KTV) in the western city of Osaka, claimed people could lose weight by eating the pungent food for breakfast and dinner daily for two weeks.
Shortly after the show was broadcast nationwide on January 7, thousands of Japanese, keen to lose weight, rushed to stores and bought up all the natto on the shelves.
Many Japanese believe natto is a healthy addition to their diet and it is widely eaten with rice for breakfast.
"We are extremely sorry that we damaged viewers' trust by producing and broadcasting a programme containing content that was not based on facts," the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper quoted KTV president Soichiro Chigusa as telling reporters.