• Kyodo

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The Obihiro public health office on Friday lifted a ban on operations at Snow Brand Milk Products Co.’s Taiki plant in southern Hokkaido.

The plant was shut down in late August following a massive food-poisoning outbreak.

The major dairy product company plans to resume operations at the plant today at the earliest, with the first shipment of 300 tons of cheese expected Thursday or later, company officials said.

At the Taiki plant Friday, employees in white uniforms were busy checking the assembly lines and other production facilities.

Toshiaki Endo, manager of Snow Brand’s Hokkaido branch, visited the Taiki Municipal Government and the town’s agricultural cooperative office and promised officials that the company will strive to restart its operations.

Industry sources, however, see no easy recovery for the major dairy product manufacturer, as major retailers are still refraining from putting Snow Brand products on their shelves.

In addition, the company is expecting more than 50 billion yen in losses due to the food-poisoning outbreak.

On Aug. 23, the Hokkaido Prefectural Government ordered Snow Brand to halt operations at the plant indefinitely after discovering enterotoxin, a bacterial toxin, in samples of powdered skim milk produced there.

In September, Snow Brand presented plans to the prefectural government to improve safety at the plant, including a manual to deal with similar problems.

Local health authorities on Sept. 3 allowed the plant to conduct test production as a step toward lifting the suspension order.

The Obihiro public health office had ordered a new safety inspection of the factory Tuesday after finding bacteria at the plant.

The powdered skim milk was an ingredient in four dairy products made at Snow Brand’s Osaka plant that caused widespread food poisoning in June and July, making some 15,000 people ill.

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