- Published on Friday, 01 February 2008 15:43
JAPAN - Officials are rushing to do some damage control after at least 10 Japanese consumers were sickened after eating dumplings imported from China.
The frozen dumplings were found to contain traces of an organic phosphorus insecticide called methamidophos, which causes severe abdominal pains, vomiting, and diarrhea, Japanese officials said.
The dumplings, produced by Chinese Tianyang Food Processing, based in Jinzhou, China, were imported and distributed by Japanese company JT Foods Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Japan Tobacco Inc.
Contamination from Chinese production/packaging or Japanese side?
Chinese safety watchdog, the General Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), said that tests on ingredient used by Tianyang showed that there were no signs of contamination in dumplings from the same batches as those whom the affected Japanese consumed.
ASQIQ Head Wang Daning said, “We've examined these two batches and have not found any problems."
He added that Japanese health officials found the methamidophos only in the dumplings eaten by those taken ill, but not in other dumplings from the same batches.
Nevertheless, AQSIQ said that an investigation into the matter has begun. Tianyang has been ordered to stop all production, sale and export of its products. A recall for all its good has also been issued.
According to the BBC, Japanese officials have suggested that the methamidophos was probably added in production or packaging in China.
Wang though, has refused to speculate on the source of the contamination, saying that “scientific evidence” was needed first before any conclusion could be drawn.
Japan scare over Chinese products
The Japan Health Ministry has suspended imports of all products from Tianyang. JT Foods was ordered to recall the tainted dumplings and has also taken initiative to recall other products from Tianyang. A nationwide survey into additional dumpling-related health cases is currently underway.
While the Health Ministry reported at least 10 people sickened after eating the Chinese dumplings, Kyoodo news agency cited its own tally and said the figure is over 400, including ill people who had eaten other products by Tianyang.
Other Japanese media reports said that another 80 people have complained of sickness after eating other food made in China. Restaurants and schools took Chinese-made food off their menus.
The Health Ministry has told 19 companies selling products made at the Chinese factory in question not sell the goods until they have been declared safe for consumption.
Health Minister Yoichi Masuzoe told a parliamentary committee, "The government will collect further information and first, prevent the spread of harm, clarify the cause and take steps to prevent a reoccurance."
Japan has not been without its own food safety scandals in recent months, which involved recycled red bean filling, mislabeled meat, and the use of outdated milk, cream and eggs in a popular cream puff brand.
Japanese government spokesman Nobutaka Machimura though, appeared to blame the dumpling contamination on "rather loose safety awareness on the Chinese side."
Chinese food safety campaign had been ‘a success’
This latest event puts a damper on the Chinese’s push to restore confidence in China-made products.
In August 2007, the Chinese government launched a four-month campaign spearheaded by Vice Premier Wu Yi to improve the quality of Chinese products and restore international confidence in its goods. Officials termed the campaign a success.
On 14 January 2008, Chinese officials declared the campaign a success with all objectives being met, especially with the Olympics to be held later this year.
Pu Chang Cheng, deputy quality watchdog chief said at a news conference, "The tasks of the rectification campaign have been fulfilled completely and its objectives have all been reached.
"The illegal practice of using non-food materials and or recycled food to produce and process food has been basically eliminated. The illegal practice of abusing food additives such as preservatives and colouring has been effectively held back."
According to Pu, one of this year's objectives would be to step up supervision over those small manufacturers.
"We must fight to basically solve the question of their unstable product quality and lack of safety in the shortest possible time," he had said at the time.
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