Japan Halts Pesticide-Laden Chinese Frozen Beans

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Japan yesterday ordered retailers to pull frozen beans from China off the shelves after a woman fell ill eating a product which had 34,500 times the legal limit of pesticide, officials said. Japan's health ministry instructed retailers and importers nationwide to suspend sales of frozen green beans from a Chinese supplier.

A ministry official said the woman felt numb in her mouth Sunday after eating a dish using the beans, which she had bought at a Tokyo supermarket. She went to hospital and was released with no apparent health problems after an overnight check, he said. The ministry ordered sales of the beans to be halted "until the cause of the incident becomes clear," the official said.

It is the latest health scare surrounding food from China, where four children died recently after consuming milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.

The Tokyo metropolitan government conducted tests on the beans on Tuesday and found they had 34,500 times the pesticide residue level permitted by the Japanese government. The beans were manufactured by Yantai Beihai Foodstuff in eastern China's Shandong province. A company spokesman said Chinese authorities were investigating the firm but managers did not believe it was responsible.

"From all the information gathered, we currently suspect this is not a case of pesticides residue (originating from Yantai)," said Jiang Pengfei, from Yantai's business department.

He said it appeared so far that the problem was an isolated case and that the extreme level of pesticides detected indicated it was not a production issue. "If it was a case of pesticide residue on a large scale (through all Yantai's beans), the level of residue wouldn't be so high," Jiang said.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura said the government had informed the Chinese embassy in Tokyo of the case but that it was "too early" to determine the cause of the contamination.

A senior Japanese foreign ministry official urged caution.

"We have to be careful because only one case has been reported so far. It's a matter for police investigation," he said on condition of anonymity.

The beans were grown in Heilongjiang province in northeastern China where there was no record of any use of pesticides, said Tokyo-based Nichirei Foods, which imported the produce.

"We conducted an inspection on a sample of the beans before importing them but did not detect pesticides," a Nichirei Foods spokesman said.

The woman who fell ill bought the frozen beans at a branch of the Ito-Yokado supermarket chain in Tokyo's middle-class Hachioji neighbourhood. "We checked bags of the same product but didn't find any holes or any abnormalities," the manager of the supermarket told television reporters.

Food safety has turned into a major political issue in Japan, which imports 60 percent of its food-the highest rate of any rich country.

Ten people suffered pesticide poisoning in December and January, and thousands of others reported feeling sick after eating frozen dumplings imported from China. One girl went into a coma before recovering. Japan and China, who have been working to repair sometimes rocky relations, have held meetings in a bid to find the cause of the pesticide contamination.

China's image as a food producer has suffered in recent months because of a scandal over milk products tainted with melamine.

Four Chinese children are known to have died and at least 53,000 made ill after consuming melamine-laced milk, leading to import bans being imposed by countries around the world.

China broadens dairy product recall amid health scandal

BEIJING China was yesterday pulling all dairy products more than a month old from shops across the country in one of the biggest steps by authorities to end a deadly scandal over contaminated milk.

All dairy products made before September 14 will be tested for a chemical blamed for killing four babies and leaving more than 53,000 others sick, according to a notice posted on the product-safety watchdog's website. "All supermarkets, shops, and all city, town and village-level vendors will urgently remove and seal up all milk powder and liquid milk made before September 14, pending further testing," said the notice.

The announcement by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine gave no reason for the blanket removal of the goods or why the order was not issued when the scandal first broke last month. The notice, posted this week and publicised in the state press yesterday, said only it was part of "inspections to sort out the dairy market".

However, it appeared to indicate fears that contamination of Chinese milk products with the industrial chemical melamine was more widespread than originally thought.

Chinese officials had said earlier that the products of at least 22 milk companies, or nearly 12 percent of products tested, had been found to contain melamine.





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