Police in Japan are investigating a nationwide outbreak of food poisoning after over a 1,000 people across the country have fallen sick from food contaminated with malathion. The country’s largest packaged-food maker has withdrawn 6.4 million products.
Some 1.2 million packages have been recovered. However, 5.2 million packages still remain unaccounted for.
“We test products several times a day for evidence of
spoilage, based on the law, but we had no reason to believe
pesticides would be present, so we didn’t test for that,”
Ichiro Gohara, a spokesman for the company, told Bloomberg.
“Until now, we haven’t received any reports of problems.”
About 300 employees of Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc., a company that produced the tainted food, have been questioned by police as the investigation has been launched into mass poisoning.
More than 1,700 people across Japan reported health problems after eating the frozen food products, Japanese NHK reported. Complaints have been reported in all 47 prefectures.
In western Osaka Prefecture, a nine-month-old baby was hospitalized on Monday after eating a product called ‘creamy corn croquettes’, according to AFP.
Consumers complained about having food poisoning symptoms, like diarrhea, vomiting and stomach aches after eating packaged frozen croquettes, frozen chicken teriyaki with mayonnaise, or pizza.
It was later revealed that pesticides at 2.6 million times the permitted levels had been found in the frozen croquettes. Pesticides have been detected in other Maruha Nichiro products, and the company has recalled them.
Police suspect that the malathion, which is usually used to fight bug influxes in corn and rice fields, was mixed into the products at the plant run by Aqli Foods, a company owned by Maruha Nichiro.
The company has confirmed that none of the tainted products have been shipped to other countries.
This is not the first time Japan faces mass food poisoning. In August 2012, pickled Chinese cabbage contaminated with E-coli bacteria killed six people, including a 4-year-old girl. At least 100 others were infected. Pickled Chinese cabbage is a popular side dish in Japan, and this particular batch had been made by two local producers and sold across the Hokkaido prefecture.