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Alarmed by a series of copycat poisoning crimes, the Health and Welfare Ministry on Monday requested prefectural governments to take steps to insure swift treatment of any future victims.

The ministry made the request at a meeting in Tokyo. It was the first time for the ministry to summon local officials to discuss crisis management.

The ministry asked the officials to improve communication among local public health centers, fire departments and police, particularly in the initial handling of poisoning cases.

The ministry also suggested that a liaison panel be set up to coordinate actions within prefectural governments to expedite responses in poisoning cases.

Meanwhile, a 31-year-old police officer in Shizuoka who was in critical condition Sunday after eating a sandwich he bought at a local convenience store regained consciousness Monday morning.

The officer, Ikuo Sugimoto, fell ill inside the police box in front of JR Shizuoka Station shortly after eating a sandwich he bought at a nearby shop the previous night.

Later Monday, police in Shizuoka said insecticide was detected in a bottle of orange juice that sent a 30-year-old woman to a hospital Sunday. The woman reported a burning in her mouth after drinking a mouthful of juice purchased at a local supermarket, police said.

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