A least 10 people in Hyogo and Chiba Prefectures have suffered food poisoning after consuming frozen “gyoza” meat and vegetable dumplings from China that contained pesticide, corporate and government officials said Wednesday.
The importer of the products, JT Foods Co., a Tokyo-based subsidiary of Japan Tobacco Inc., has recalled all 23 products made by the Chinese company, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said.
Police have detected traces of an organophosphate called methamidophos inside the packaging. Methamidophos traces were also detected in samples of the victims’ uneaten products, JT Foods said.
Methamidophos is often used as a pesticide in China, but the chemical has not been approved for such use in Japan, officials said.
Separately, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry asked JT Foods to stop importing and selling the dumplings and notified the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo about the incidents.
The metro government said three members of a family in Hyogo Prefecture became dizzy and started vomiting on Jan. 5 after eating one of the dumpling products.
Similarly, five members of a family in Ichikawa, Chiba Prefecture, got food poisoning on Jan. 22 after eating another dumpling product imported by JT Foods and were rushed to a hospital. One of them, a 5-year-old girl, fell into a serious condition after losing consciousness, but has since improved.
According to JT Foods, the two products were both produced by the same plant run by Tianyang Shipin.
The tainted products are Tezutsumi Hitokuchi Gyoza (One-bite Gyoza Dumpling Wrapped by Hand), and Tezukuri Gyoza (Hand-made Gyoza Dumpling).
Two other people who fell ill in Chiba on Jan. 30 were probably poisoned by Tezukuri Gyoza. Later in the day, Saitama Prefecture reported another possible food-poisoning case involving a woman in the city of Tokorozawa who got diarrhea and started vomiting after eating a frozen Chinese gyoza product — also imported by JT Foods — on Jan. 17.
But the prefecture said it has not detected methamidophos in the rest of the product kept at the woman’s home.
Chinese vegetables are notorious for containing residual chemicals used in the process of cultivation and have posed serious health concerns to Japanese consumers.
But according to Norihisa Nakamura, an official at the metro government health bureau, it is likely the chemical was added only to certain products somewhere in the production process or during the distribution process, because pesticide residue on vegetables usually spreads to other ingredients and its toxicity wouldn’t be as strong as in the new cases.
Information from Kyodo added