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OSAKA — Osaka police on Friday inspected Snow Brand Milk Products Co.’s Taiki factory in Hokkaido that is suspected of being the source of a widespread outbreak of food poisoning in June and July in the Osaka area.

The police said they plan to conduct investigations at the Taiki factory for about three weeks. Powdered skim milk tainted with a bacterial toxin was traced to the plant, according to the police.

About 15,000 people became sick after consuming low-fat milk and other products from Snow Brand’s Osaka factory, which used the powdered milk from Hokkaido to produce the items in late June.

Police may arrest Snow Brand officials or send papers on them to public prosecutors on suspicion of negligence resulting in injury, police sources said.

Investigators plan to question officials at the Taiki factory and rerun the production process for powdered skim milk, and also to use the milk to make products at the Osaka factory as an experiment.

Snow released a statement reiterating its apology for the food-poisoning outbreak and pledged to fully cooperate with the investigation. Investigators searched Snow Brand’s Osaka factory for evidence July 2 and its Tokyo headquarters and the Osaka branch office Aug. 30.

A toxin produced by the staphylococcus aureus bacteria was detected in mid-August by health authorities in samples of powdered milk from the Taiki plant.

In late March, a power failure occurred at the Taiki factory and milk was left at room temperature for about three hours. The milk was used to produce powdered skim milk, which was delivered to the Osaka plant, police said.

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