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YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Police in Kanagawa Prefecture are building a fraud case against a former employee of major supermarket chain Ito-Yokado Co. and four other people for allegedly reselling frozen broiled eel imported from China after falsifying the importer’s name, investigative sources said Tuesday.

The falsification came to light in the course of an investigation into Yokohama seafood retailer Yamato Foods Co., which is suspected of selling the eel products last year by falsely extending their expiration date by 2 1/2 years. A synthetic pigment whose use in foods is banned in Japan has also been detected in the eel.

According to the sources, Takayama Seafood Co., a fisheries wholesaler in Tokyo, falsely claimed to have been the importer of the products before reselling them to a different company. The former Ito-Yokado employee was also involved in the falsification, they said, noting the supermarket chain ultimately sold the products to consumers.

The police have already searched the headquarters of Ito-Yokado, a unit of Seven & I Holdings Co., over its alleged involvement in the case.

Last November, the police searched sales branches of Yamato Foods over alleged sales until the previous month of eel with falsified expiration dates. The original date of May 26, 2007, had been extended to Nov. 23, 2009.

Yamato’s illicit sale was uncovered after a box with the original expiration date was found at a waste disposal site of a Yokohama wholesale market where a Yamato Foods sales branch was located.

Yokohama authorities ordered Yamato Foods to recall the products and contacted the police after its tests on the eels showed they contained traces of malachite green, which can be used as an antimicrobial agent for ornamental fish but is not supposed to be used for food stocks.

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