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Major Japan food company recalls 6.3m packages of frozen food after insecticide detected

Major Japan food company recalls 6.3m packages of frozen food after insecticide detected
Tuesday, Dec 31, 2013
The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network

JAPAN - Major food company Maruha Nichiro Holdings began recalling more than 6.3 million packages of its frozen foods because some were found to contain an agricultural chemical.

The Tokyo-based company announced Sunday that an organic phosphate insecticide called malathion had been detected in some frozen foods produced by its affiliate Aqlifoods Co. in Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture.

No health problems have been reported as a result of the contamination, but Maruha Nichiro decided to suspend production at the factory and voluntarily recall all frozen foods shipped from there because the source of the chemical has not yet been identified, the company said.

"We'll take every measure possible to recall all the products. I deeply regret causing concern and trouble," Maruha Nichiro President Toshio Kushiro said at a press conference.

Malathion is a relatively mild poison, and is directly sprayed over wheat and other cereal crops in the United States. It was registered as an agricultural chemical in 1953, and about a dozen firms sell it for exterminating aphids, spider mites and other pests.

According to Maruha Nichiro, all frozen foods produced at the Oizumi factory will be recalled-44 kinds for household use and 46 for business use. More than 6.3 million packages have been distributed across the nation.

Most of the packages have "Aqlifoods Gunma factory" printed on the surface as the maker, but some produced specially for major supermarkets Aeon and Seiyu do not bear the name.

On Nov. 13, a consumer who had eaten a pizza made at the factory called the company and complained that it smelled like petroleum. An investigation detected levels of malathion far above allowable standards in four kinds of frozen foods collected from the market.

They were Torori kon kurimu korokke (melty corn cream croquette), Mikkusu piza sanmai-iri (pack of three mixed pizzas), Torimayo! (chicken cutlet with mayonnaise), and Chizu ga nobiru chikin nagetto (chicken nuggets with soft cheese).

Maruha Nichiro had received 20 similar complaints as of Sunday, including one case in which a child ate and spat out pizza, but no health problems have been reported, according to the company.

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