TOKYO (Kyodo) — Detection of another type of highly toxic pesticide from a Chinese-made frozen pork cutlet product has prompted the government to ban related imports and the Japanese distributor to begin recalling the product, officials involved said Thursday.
Osaka-based Nicky Foods Co. said the same day it has halted production by two of its food manufacturing subsidiaries in China's Shandong Province — the one that produced the cutlet and another involved in two other frozen products from which an organophosphate pesticide, methamidophos, has been found.
A higher-than-minimum allowable level of organophosphate pesticide, phorate, has been detected from the cutlet product sold by a union of consumers' cooperatives in Kanagawa, Shizuoka and Yamanashi prefectures, officials of the city of Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, said Wednesday.
Made by what is literally translated as Qingqingrenmu Food, the product carries the open date of Nov. 21, 2008.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has instructed quarantine stations across Japan to suspend the import of Qingqingrenmu Food products, ministry officials said.
At Nicky Foods' head office in Osaka, Senior Managing Director Minoru Shinra said in a press conference, ''We apologize for the trouble and concerns caused to the people who enjoyed our products.''
Shinra said the firm would recall on a voluntary basis products containing asparagus including the cutlet concerned, and suspend production at the two subsidiaries ''until investigation into the cause and improvement measures are completed.''
The amount of phorate detected from asparagus in the cutlet was 1.2 parts per million, compared with the minimum acceptable daily intake for humans of 0.3 ppm.
But Shinra said phorate is not used at its factory and may have remained on the asparagus, while admitting that no checks for phorate have been conducted in the manufacturing process.
Of the 753 packages of the product sold by the union grouping six co-ops in the three prefectures to its member consumers, at least 660 packages have already been collected.
According to the Osaka city office, packages of the product with the same open date have been sold to nine co-ops in Niigata, Kanagawa, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima and Fukuoka prefectures.
Methamidophos, the organophosphate pesticide detected in Chinese-made frozen ''gyoza'' dumplings that sickened 10 people in Chiba and Hyogo prefectures from December to January, has already been found in two products of another subsidiary of Nicky Foods literally translated as Shandong Renmu Food.
In response to the food poisoning cases, the education ministry on Thursday urged prefectural education boards nationwide to pay close attention to the situation in order to secure the safety of school lunches.