Twist in ‘gyoza’ case points to packaging


The pesticide at the root of the “gyoza” food-poisoning scare has been found on the inner surface of a hermetically sealed package of the frozen Chinese-made dumplings, raising the possibility contamination took place either before or during the packaging process.

In a twist, however, the pesticide was detected on both the inner and outer sides of the packaging, but not in the fillings or the dough. No holes or scratches were found either, police said.

The package, one of 11 set aside by an Osaka supermarket, was tainted with the same pesticide, methamidophos, that sickened 10 people in Chiba and Hyogo prefectures starting in December.

China’s quality control authorities have said no problems have been found in the way food or production is managed at the maker, Tianyang Food, in Hebei Province, and that methamidophos was not used at the factory, indicating the likelihood the dumplings were deliberately contaminated.

Chinese investigators have also found that the container carrying the suspect dumplings was never opened after leaving Tianyang Food and was loaded straight onto a ship bound for Japan at Tianjin port.

Police also said they have found methamidophos on the outside of a package that bore a tiny hole, but confirmed that none of the dumplings inside was tainted.

Both were among the 11 packages sent back by the Happiece Hirakata supermarket in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, after consumers complained the surfaces were sticky and smelled unusual.

The dumplings were imported by JT Foods Co., an affiliate of Japan Tobacco Inc., through intermediation by Sojitz Foods Corp., a subsidiary of trading house Sojitz Corp.

Of the 11 packages, six have been confirmed as tainted on the outside, and one as having pesticide on the outer and inner surfaces of the packaging and in the dough.

Police have collected 133 packages that were made on Oct. 1 — the same date that the dumplings in the food poisonings were manufactured, they said. So far, only 17 have been inspected.

The latest two cases bring the number of tainted gyoza packages to 11 since the food-poisoning scare broke last week.

Since the packages set aside by the supermarket likely arrived there in the same box used at the port from which they were imported, it is also possible the box was contaminated as a whole.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura warned the public against speculating on the cause of the contamination. A Chinese quality control official said the previous day that the dumplings could have been deliberately poisoned by people who want to harm relations between the two countries.

Methamidophos is a highly toxic organophosphate pesticide banned in Japan but still used in China.

‘Gyoza’ dates suspect

BEIJING (Kyodo) Pesticide-laced Chinese-made frozen “gyoza” dumplings that were sold in Japan and sickened some Japanese consumers were produced on a holiday and weekend when a smaller number of workers were on duty, Japanese sources said Friday.

Oct. 1 and Oct. 20, on which the dumplings contaminated with the highly toxic organophosphate pesticide methamidophos were produced, were a holiday and a Saturday, respectively. June 3, when dumplings containing the pesticide dichlorvos were made, was a Sunday, the sources said.

The dumplings were manufactured by Tianyang Food in Hebei Province, south of Beijing.

Earlier this week, Wei Chuanzhong, vice minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, told a Japanese government team that the contaminated frozen meat dumplings may have been poisoned on purpose by those who do not wish to see good relations between the two countries.

China’s quality control authorities have said no problems were found in the food and production management on the part of the maker and that methamidophos was not used at its factory.

Chinese police are apparently questioning company employees who worked on the three days.

In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said Friday that investigations are still under way.