TOKYO (Reuters) - Dozens more people in Japan said on Thursday they fell sick after eating Chinese-made food, a day after Japanese food companies recalled pesticide-contaminated dumplings from China that made 10 people sick.
The food scare has triggered a nationwide probe into possible additional cases of food poisoning, while Japan’s top government spokesman questioned China’s attitude to food safety only weeks after the country said it had improved standards.
Japanese media and opposition lawmakers have also suggested Japan’s initial response to the problem may have been too slow.
“I have two children, boys aged four and two. They love dumplings. Japanese people love dumplings,” said Democratic Party parliamentarian Yuichiro Hata. “This is something that threatens peoples’ lives.”
Japan Tobacco Inc said on Wednesday its subsidiary, JT Foods Co., would recall the frozen dumplings and other food made at the same Chinese factory, as television broadcasters flashed warnings to viewers not to eat the products.
Around 80 people in Japan have complained of getting sick from eating food made in China, TV Asahi said. Restaurants and schools took Chinese-made food off their menus, other media said.
Major department store chain Daimaru said it had suspended sales of all foods imported from China, including fruit and vegetables.
The Chinese Embassy in Japan said the police were helping the national quality watchdog probe the case. But it also asked Japan to provide more information.
“The Chinese side is willing to proactively cooperate, to get to the bottom of this matter as soon as possible,” the embassy said in a statement on its Web site (www.china-embassy.or.jp).
Wang Daning, head of the food import and export safety division at China’s quality watchdog, said the company involved had been ordered to stop production and exports and recall its products. It mainly exports to Japan.
But both Wang and Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters that initial testing of samples of two batches of dumplings in question found them to be safe.
The export certificates showed that pesticide residues in the cabbage and ginger used in the dumplings had met standards.
“It is not logical to make representations before the results of the investigation are released,” Liu told a news conference.
“The Japanese side has not made complete and scientific conclusions yet. All the work is still ongoing, so we should be very cautious in making a conclusive evaluation now,” he said. “Meanwhile, we will cooperate with the Japanese side to clarify the issue.”
Japanese media reports said the insecticide found in the dumplings was used widely in China, but not in Japan.
“I don’t want to think that there is any difference among countries concerning food safety, but it seems there was a sense on the Chinese side that ‘this is probably ok’,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a news conference.
The scandal is the latest in a string of disputes over the safety of Chinese products from toys to toothpaste. Earlier this month, China declared that its campaign to ensure food and product safety had been a complete success.
Relations between China and Japan are at the best of times sensitive, with enmity in China towards its wartime adversary deep-rooted.
Additional reporting by Linda Sieg and Chisa Fujioka in Tokyo and Ben Blanchard and Lindsay Beck in Beijing; Editing by Bill Tarrant