Maruha unit searched amid recall of frozen food triggered by pesticide

Kyodo, JIJI

Public health authorities in Gunma Prefecture raided the factory of a Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc. subsidiary Monday, a day after the firm said pesticide was detected in some of the food products made there.

The subsidiary, Aqlifoods Co., is recalling 6.3 million packages of frozen food ranging from croquettes to pizza. The food subject to the recall was made between mid-November and Sunday at its factory in the town Oizumi.

According to prefectural inspectors, they interviewed factory workers over the distribution routes of the food products and types of chemicals used at the factory.

After customers complained that the food smelled unusual, the company examined the products and detected the presence of malathion, an insecticide that is not usually used in the factory, Aqlifoods said.

While there are no reports of serious health damage, one child did vomit as a result of the odor, according to the company.

The company said it has suspend operations at the Gunma factory and halted shipments from it until it determines the cause of the problem.

The recall affects 88 products — 42 for household use and 46 for commercial use. Among the items to be brought back are those made for supermarket chains Aeon Co. and Seiyu Ltd., and the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union as their private brand products, according to company officials.

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart for causing trouble to our customers,” Aqlifoods President Yutaka Tanabe told a news conference Sunday in Tokyo. “We have decided to recall all items made at the plant to fully ensure” the safety of customers.

Retailers expressed concern about the impact the case could have on consumer behavior, especially because people buy frozen food in stock during the holidays.