China dumplings spark food scare in Japan

Dozens more people in Japan on Thursday said they fell sick after eating Chinese-made food, a day after Japanese food companies recalled pesticide-contaminated dumplings from China that made 10 people sick.

The food scare has triggered a nationwide probe into possible additional cases of food poisoning, while Japan’s top government spokesperson questioned China’s attitude to food safety only weeks after the country said it had improved standards.

Japanese media and opposition lawmakers have also suggested Japan’s initial response to the problem may have been too slow.

”I have two children, boys aged four and two. They love dumplings. Japanese people love dumplings,” said Democratic Party parliamentarian Yuichiro Hata. ”This is something that threatens peoples’ lives.”

Japan Tobacco said on Wednesday its subsidiary, JT Foods., would recall the frozen dumplings and other food made at the same Chinese factory, as television broadcasters flashed warnings to viewers not to eat the products.

About 80 people in Japan have complained of getting sick from eating food made in China, TV Asahi said. Restaurants and schools took Chinese-made food off their menus, other media said.

The Chinese Embassy in Japan said the company involved had been banned from exporting, and the police were helping the national quality watchdog probe the case. But it also asked Japan to provide more information.

”The Chinese side is willing to proactively cooperate, to get to the bottom of this matter as soon as possible,” the embassy said in a statement.

An official at China’s quality watchdog said there was an ”initial conclusion” to the investigation, but the official would not elaborate, saying only that it would hold a news conference later in the day.

Dumpling samples of two batches in question had been found to be safe in a preliminary test, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao told a news briefing on Thursday, adding that an investigation had been launched.

”It is not logical to make representations before the results of the investigation are released,” he said, adding the government had taken all kinds of precautionary measures.

The scandal is the latest in a string of disputes over the safety of Chinese products from toys to toothpaste. Earlier this month, China declared that its campaign to ensure food and product safety had been a complete success.

Relations between China and Japan are at the best of times sensitive, with enmity in China towards its war-time adversary deep-rooted.

Japan has not been immune to its own food scares. A number of Japanese confectioners admitted last year to having wrongly labelled production and expiry dates for cookies and rice cakes.

No widespread health hazards, however, have hit the country since more than 10 000 people suffered food poisoning after drinking tainted milk in 2000. — Reuters

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