• Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

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SAPPORO — The president of a Hokkaido meat processing company said Wednesday that one of its plants shipped products made from minced beef and pork that was labeled only as ground beef.

Meat Hope Co. President Minoru Tanaka told reporters Wednesday night that he approved the mixing of minced pork with minced beef when the company exhausted its beef stock. The products were then labeled as ground beef, Tanaka said, adding, “We have to accept the blame for the deception.”

The mixture was processed into “beef” croquettes and other products and distributed to food firms nationwide, including a subsidiary of major frozen food maker Katokichi Co.

Some media meanwhile reported that Meat Hope also used expired beef in the croquettes, but Katokichi could not confirm that allegation.

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Tanaka claimed there was a possibility the meat was mixed by mistake and Tomakomai-based Meat Hope was investigating.

Tanaka told the earlier briefing the company’s plant that processed the meat uses only one machine to mince beef, pork and chicken, and that pork left in the machine may have been mixed with beef.

But he also said it was possible the pork was added to the beef when beef stocks ran out.

Later Wednesday evening, Katokichi said the head of the Meat Hope factory acknowledged doing just that when beef stocks ran out.

Katokichi, based in Kagawa Prefecture, set up a task force Tuesday headed by Director Kazuo Kobayashi to look into the matter.

The foods in question include Co-op Beef Croquette produced by Hokkaido Katokichi Co. A total of 5 million packages have been sold since March 2003, according to the seller, the Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union.

Hokkaido Katokichi has stopped producing all foods in question.

Katokichi said it will halt sales of 32 items using the beef croquettes, including nine sold under its own brand that will be recalled, and offer refunds.

Katokichi said sales of the 32 products add up to the equivalent of about 4.37 million croquettes per month.

“We apologize to our corporate clients and consumers for causing trouble and concern,” Katokichi President Tetsuji Kanamori said at a news conference in Tokyo. “We trusted (Meat Hope) based on our past relations.”

The scam is a fresh blow to Katokichi, which recently became embroiled in a scandal over fraudulent transactions.

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