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Japan: China probes dirty dumplings

TOKYO -- Chinese authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into Chinese-made dumplings that sickened 10 people in Japan and touched off a food-safety scare, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

Beijing recently informed Tokyo that authorities suspect the dumplings were contaminated with a pesticide either at the Chinese factory where they were produced or during shipping, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the ongoing probe.

Traces of methamidophos were found in the dumplings, on the packaging and in the vomit of the 10 Japanese who were sickened after eating two separate brands of dumplings produced by Tianyang Food Processing Ltd. in December and January. The pesticide is banned in Japan.

Chinese authorities initially balked at the results of a Japanese investigation earlier this year that found the dumplings were likely contaminated before shipment to Japan.

But Beijing reversed that position after confirming that four people in China fell ill in June after eating dumplings from the same company, and that they had also been poisoned with methamidophos, the ministry official said.

Japanese media quoting unidentified Chinese public safety authorities reported Sunday that a factory insider may have deliberately poisoned the dumplings.

The Asahi, a mainstream Japanese newspaper, said Chinese authorities think someone from within the factory contaminated the dumplings. Other major dailies carried similar reports. Chinese authorities have checked footage of monitoring cameras and interviewed 55 factory workers, as well an unspecified number of temporary workers and others who no longer worked for the company, The Asahi said.

The reports made no mention of arrests.

The foreign ministry official said Chinese authorities had not told Tokyo that it suspected sabotage.

The dumpling case touched off a food-safety scare in Japan, a key Chinese export market, and set back Beijing’s efforts to shore up foreign consumer confidence in its products after a series of food and product safety scandals last year.

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