• Kyodo

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Police questioned two former executives of Snow Brand Foods Co. on Thursday over their involvement in the company’s beef-labeling scam.

Investigators quizzed Shozo Yoshida, 58, a former president of Snow Brand Foods, and Hiromi Sakurada, 61, a former senior managing director, in connection with the scandal. Sakurada was in charge of meat procurement.

The subsidiary of struggling Snow Brand Milk Products Co., which itself was responsible for a large-scale food-poisoning outbreak in summer 2000, has admitted passing off imported beef as domestic in order to gain government subsidies introduced in October after the discovery of mad cow disease in Japan.

Yoshida signed the documents the company submitted in applying for the subsidies. Sakurada oversaw a section that falsely claimed imported meat products were domestic, police said.

Both have since resigned.

The government subsidies are part of a scheme involving the incineration of about 12,600 tons of beef from cows butchered before nationwide cattle testing for mad cow disease began Oct. 18.

According to investigations, the company falsely labeled a total of 30 tons of imported beef as domestic between October and November and received 196 million yen under the government scheme.

The police suspect the company committed fraud.

Snow Brand Foods decided earlier this month to disband on April 30 because, saying it would be extremely difficult to stay in business after losing public trust, business contracts and share value.

The scandal forced the company, established in 1950, to quit the meat business because several supermarkets and retailers took Snow Brand Foods products off their shelves.

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