An extremely high concentration of insecticide has been detected in frozen green beans imported from China, causing a woman in the Tokyo suburb of Hachioji and two other people in Chiba Prefecture to fall ill, reports said Wednesday.
The 56-year-old woman bought the beans Saturday and ate some of them Sunday, the Hachioji health department said. She started vomiting from the foul taste and smell and later experienced numbness in her mouth and more nausea.
The city of Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, said later Wednesday that two people experienced numbness of the tongue after eating beans from a package with the same lot number as the one in the Hachioji case. Police seized the remaining beans from the Kashiwa incident and were conducting checks.
The Hachioji health department said it detected 6,900 parts per million of the organophosphate insecticide dichlorvos in the beans, which is 34,500 times the government standard for imports.
At that concentration, which the ministry said is nearly equal to an undiluted solution of the insecticide, eating just 0.07 gram of the beans could be enough to trigger acute symptoms in a 60-kg person, it said.
The beans were manufactured by Yantai Beihai Foodstuff Co. in Shandong Province and imported by Tokyo-based Nichirei Foods Inc. for sale under the Ingen brand.
Prime Minister Taro Aso told reporters Wednesday that Tokyo will ask Beijing to work to improve the safety of exported food products from China. “(Food) products from China have caused problems in many places (for about a year),” he said.
This is not Yantai Beihai’s first tainted product. The ministry said it also detected unacceptable levels of the insecticide chlorpyrifos in another frozen bean product made by the company in 2002 that was exported to Japan. Although the concentration was 0.15 ppm, a level that shouldn’t cause immediate health problems in humans, the product had to be destroyed, it said.
A total of 265 tons of the frozen green beans have been imported in the past year. The government is warning consumers not to eat them and asking distributors to halt sales of the product until it can confirm what made the consumers sick. Quarantine offices nationwide have been ordered to halt import procedures for all food products from the Chinese company.
Nichirei said no dichlorvos was used at the Chinese farm that grew the beans or at the plant where they were frozen.
Local health offices across Japan have been asked to check whether any similar cases have been reported.
Police opened an investigation into possible food tampering, although the package at the Hachioji woman’s home did not show any other signs of being opened except for a cut she made with a pair of scissors.
The chemical was detected in the beans that hadn’t been cooked, but the concentration was not lethal, the police said.
After the woman fell ill, she was rushed to a hospital in Machida for treatment and her condition improved in two to three hours, the Hachioji public health office said. She was discharged Monday.
The woman bought the package at an Ito-Yokado Co. supermarket in Hachioji. Seven & I Holdings Co., the parent of Ito-Yokado, said the outlet sold 46 packages that day and tracked down 40 of them.
Nichirei Foods imported 2,538 cases of the beans containing 20 packages each from the Shandong firm in late July.
Frozen “gyoza” (dumplings) from China tainted with the agrochemical methamidophos sickened three families earlier this year in Chiba and Hyogo prefectures. It was later revealed that gyoza made by the same Chinese firm, containing the same pesticide, caused a food poisoning outbreak in China over the summer that Beijing authorities initially urged Japan not to report.