MATSUYAMA, Ehime Pref. – Police arrested the former president of a food processing firm in Iyo, Ehime Prefecture, and four others Thursday over their alleged involvement in the mislabeling of grilled eel.
Shuto Oyama, 49, who previously headed Sunrise Foods, and his wife, Yumiko, 48, are among those suspected of violating the unfair competition prevention law.
Also arrested were Ken Arima, 39, Tetsuya Hino, 39, and Masahiro Kondo, 28, all former workers at the company.
Police suspect the five labeled 13,000 grilled eels as from Ehime although they were procured from other countries or other prefectures and sold them to a major fishery wholesaler in Tokyo for a combined ¥10 million.
The president and his wife and Arima denied the allegations, while Hino and Kondo admitted to the charge during police questioning, sources said.
Sunrise Foods has shipped 10 million grilled eels to wholesalers across Japan since around 2006, according to police, who believe most of the eels were from China and Taiwan or other prefectures in Japan.
Last August, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry ordered Sunrise Foods to improve its operations in line with the law on the proper labeling of farm products for labeling eels from Kochi and Miyazaki prefectures as originating in Ehime.
The farm ministry also searched the head office of Sunrise Foods and other places in September. The company was later disbanded.
When investigators questioned Oyama on a voluntary basis last September, he told them his company mixed its shipments with eel grown outside Ehime but denied it intentionally falsified the labels.
Violators of the unfair competition prevention can face up to five years in prison, a fine of up to ¥5 million, or both.
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