The farm ministry said Monday that Nippon Meat Packers Inc. and its scandal-tainted subsidiary can resume their beef-related operations because it has deemed as acceptable the group’s steps to prevent further fraud targeting the government’s beef buyback subsidies.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry also said it has found no evidence of additional fraud in its latest inspections of beef packages submitted by the subsidiary, Nippon Food Inc., under the buyback scheme, which was introduced to compensate beef producers for losses stemming from last September’s outbreak of mad cow disease in domestic cattle.
Nippon Meat, better known as Nippon Ham, has suspended its beef-related operations under ministry pressure since Aug. 14, following revelations that Nippon Food falsely labeled imported beef as domestic to get the state buyback subsidies.
In a meeting of its task force on countering the mad cow disease scare, the ministry said it will allow Nippon Ham to resume providing beef to Nippon Food and Nippon Food to resume selling beef products, a ministry official said.
In its inspections that ended Friday into all unchecked packages of beef submitted by Nippon Food, the ministry found several bearing inaccuracies, but said they were not serious enough to be regarded as fraud.
It found no further evidence that Nippon Food falsely labeled or refilled the packages with beef not subject to the subsidy program, it said.
The company last month was found to have mislabeled imported beef as domestic in applying for the buyback funds. Nippon Food admitted it had tried to fraudulently gain the state subsidies.
It later canceled the application and incinerated some of the returned meat in an apparent attempt to conceal the deception.
Earlier Monday, Nippon Ham submitted a new version of its planned measures to prevent further wrongdoing.
The measures newly included at the ministry’s suggestion are the introduction of a female outside director and the setting up of a reform headquarters and a quality assurance division under direct control of the company’s president, the official said.
Nippon Ham Chairman Yoshinori Okoso, Vice Chairman Shigeo Suzuki and Vice Chairman Teruchika Okoso “retired” on Aug. 28 from all positions at the company to take responsibility for the beef-labeling fraud.
Given these measures, the ministry said it will “leave the market to decide from now” whether to accept the company’s operations under a new management regime.
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