OSAKA — Delicacy “matsutake” mushrooms imported from China earlier this month and subsequently found to contain agrochemical residue 28 times higher than the level allowed under the Food Sanitation Law have been put on the market, health ministry officials said Thursday.
Pesticide residue had earlier been found in frozen spinach from China, but this is the first case of Chinese-grown matsutake found to contain agrochemical residue, they said.
The finding has prompted the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to step up quarantine checks at the nation’s 31 checkpoints.
Quarantine officials randomly checked 1 kg of a 708-kg batch of the mushrooms that arrived Aug. 19 at Kansai International Airport. They found 2.8 parts per million of dichlorvos, an organophosphoric agent used in fumigation and pesticides, the officials said.
If it is inhaled or comes into contact with the skin, dichlorvos can cause headaches or breathing difficulties. Britain has banned the sale of the agent as a temporary measure, citing concerns that long-term exposure may cause cancer.
One ministry official was quoted as saying it is unlikely that eating a moderate amount of the mushrooms will cause immediate injury.
Under the Food Sanitation Law, the permissible level for the chemical is 0.1 ppm. The results of the inspection were ready four days after the mushrooms were imported. The rest of the shipment has already been put on the market, the ministry officials said.
The ministry has ordered the importer to pull the matsutake from the market, they said.
Agrochemicals are usually not used in growing matsutake. The ministry is currently investigating how the mushrooms became exposed to the substance.
The ministry will also check all matsutake shipments arriving in Japan instead of the current practice of looking at one in every 10.
Japan imported 2,395 tons of matsutake in 2010, some 64 percent of which came from China, according to Osaka customs officials. Kansai airport handles roughly 67 percent of all the imports.
Meanwhile, the ministry said it has confirmed excessive levels of agrochemical residue on two more Chinese products: frozen cauliflower on sale in Sapporo and spinach in Aichi Prefecture.
The discovery was made during an inspection of imported vegetables, ministry officials said.
Supplies of the imported frozen cauliflower and spinach were removed from supermarket shelves after the ministry notified retailers of its finding.
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