Japan Boosts Food Import Inspections

Food products from 12 Asian countries and territories with a record of importing milk products from China were added to a watch list for special inspections in Japan.

TOKYO (AP) -- A major Japanese food manufacturer has found traces of an industrial chemical in some of its products that were made in China, as a food-safety scare centered on tainted milk continued to spread, health officials said Friday.

The news came as Japan added food products from 12 Asian countries and territories with a record of importing milk products from China to a watch list for special inspections.

Marudai Food Co. pulled its cream buns, meat buns and creamed corn crepes from supermarkets a week ago as the scandal in China began to unfold. Its tests have found traces of the industrial chemical melamine in several of the recalled products, Health and Welfare Ministry official Mina Kojima said.

Marudai has sold more than 300,000 of the products, most of which are believed to have been consumed, but so far there have been no reports of health problems, she said.

No other details were immediately available, and Marudai was to provide further information in a news conference later Friday, she said.

The ministry said earlier Friday that it had suspended imports of milk and milk products from China, and had singled out products from 12 other countries and territories for close inspection. The move was meant to prevent tainted products from entering the country, ministry official Yoshiya Nishimura said.

Powdered milk contaminated with melamine has been blamed in the illnesses of some 54,000 children and the deaths of four infants in China.

The countries and territories targeted for close scrutiny -- South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, Taiwan and Hong Kong -- have imported milk and milk products from China, though they have now suspended the imports or taken other safety measures, Nishimura said.

The ministry will pay special attention to imported milk, butter and cheese, as well as processed foods using dairy ingredients such as cookies, candies, dairy products and other foods, Nishimura said.

So far, no problems have been found in products imported from the countries on the watch list, he said.

"We are hoping that the scandal ends without spreading further, but we are concerned as the problem is expanding rapidly in our neighboring countries," he said.

Tokyo-based Lotte Group, a major snacks maker, was also caught up in the storm Friday after its popular chocolate-filled Koala cookies made in China were recalled in Hong Kong and Macau because of melamine contamination.

Packages of the cookies list whole milk powder as an ingredient.

In Tokyo, a company spokeswoman said Lotte products sold in Japan were not made with Chinese dairy ingredients.

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