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The farm ministry on Wednesday ordered Marubeni Chikusan Corp., a unit of trading house Marubeni Corp., to launch a full investigation into a mislabeling scandal involving its chicken products.

Marubeni Chikusan admitted last month that its Sendai branch passed off chicken imported from Brazil as higher-priced domestic chicken.

Company President Hitoshi Nishizono recently told the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry that the illegal labeling practices may also have occurred at other branches, ministry officials said.

The ministry summoned Nishizono Wednesday and instructed him to conduct a full probe into the matter and devise measures to prevent further misconduct.

It also asked the company to voluntarily suspend sales at its Sendai office, the officials said. The instructions were issued after the ministry confirmed that Marubeni Chikusan violated Japanese Agricultural Standards legislation, they said.

Marubeni Chikusan issued a statement promising to conduct the probe quickly and report its results by the end of the month.

The officials said the ministry confirmed that at least 113 tons of chicken were wrongfully labeled from 1999 through last December.

Marubeni Chikusan said it sold at least five to eight tons a year of imported chicken with falsified labels to local stores.

According to the ministry officials, Marubeni Chikusan first sold Brazilian chicken to a packaging company in Miyagi Prefecture and bought it back after it was relabeled as domestic.

An executive at the packaging firm said the company had been involved in this practice for about 10 years at the request of Marubeni Chikusan, the officials said.

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