Illegally high levels of pesticide residue have been found in frozen spinach imported from China and used by the Jonathan’s restaurant chain, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government announced Thursday.

The chain’s operator, Jonathan’s Co., was instructed to recall the product, and the metropolitan government banned further sales by the Tokyo-based importer, S.H. Corp.

Jonathan’s, a unit of Skylark Co., stated that it has already stopped serving the spinach at all of its 322 restaurants in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures.

An inspection by the Tokyo Metropolitan Research Laboratory of Public Health found quantities of the agrochemical chlorpyrifos 12 to 13 times larger than the amount allowed under the Food Sanitation Law in spinach stock with a sell-by date of May 2003.

The batch was part of 44 tons of frozen spinach imported by S.H. in December 2001 for sale to Jonathan’s.

The metropolitan government said it decided to conduct the inspection after the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry provided it with information about possible high chemical residues in such products.

Chlorpyrifos is an organic phosphorous insecticide used to drive out insects in fruit. It can cause humans to suffer convulsions or respiratory insufficiency.

The metropolitan government will also inspect restaurants, school lunch centers and markets that use vegetables from China.

Jonathan’s, quoted on the over-the-counter stock market, runs restaurants in Tokyo, Ibaraki, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Yamanashi and Shizuoka prefectures. Skylark is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange’s first section.

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