Recalled gyoza sold in China

Source of Article:

Satoshi Saeki and Toru Makinoda / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondents

BEIJING--A large amount of Chinese-made frozen gyoza dumplings, which were recalled following the revelation in Japan of food poisoning cases caused by the chemical-tainted products in January last year, have been sold to several steel manufacturers in China, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Friday.

According to sources close to the issue, employees at the manufacturers in Hebei Province, where a Chinese company that made the gyoza in question is based, and their families ate the products, which had a newly designed packaging, from April to June.

Other sources said that four victims of food poisoning in China in June were people who have connections with Chengde Iron and Steel in Chengde in the province. These four people apparently had eaten the recalled gyoza, which should have been kept by the product's maker, Tianyang Food.

In January 2008, it was learned that 10 people from three families in Chiba and Hyogo prefectures had reported symptoms of food poisoning after eating frozen gyoza made in China. Methamidophos, an organophosphate pesticide, was later detected in the gyoza and on the packaging.

The latest revelation suggests the gyoza in question was mishandled as the products were distributed widely even after the revelation of food poisonings.

According to employees at Tangshan Iron and Steel, based in Tangshan in the province, the frozen gyoza were distributed for free by the company as part of employee benefit programs in about May last year.

Workers said that of the company's 7,000 to 8,000 regular employees, the product was mainly distributed to night-shift workers, who received between two to four packages of "Chuka de Gochiso Hitokuchi Gyoza" (delicious Chinese-style bite-size gyoza), the same product produced by Tianyang Food that caused food poisoning in Japan.

The Yomiuri Shimbun confirmed the packaging of the distributed product in the city, but that the base color of the packaging was black, which is different from those sold in Japan that had a red base color.

According to Japan Tobacco Inc., a parent company of JT Foods Co., which imported the product into Japan from Tianyang Food, the black-based packaging is a new design aimed at giving the product a higher-quality look.

JT Foods had planned to sell the product in Japan with the newly designed package from February last year, but the product was never shipped due to the revelation of the food poisonings.

The products in question have the use-by date of April 6, 2009. Counting back from this date, the products probably were produced in about Jan. 6, 2008, and were apparently were kept by Tianyang Food.

While many employees at the company are believed to have eaten the tainted gyoza, no cases concerning health damage caused by the product, such as food poisoning, have been reported.

Meanwhile, Handan Iron and Steel, based in Handan in the province, also distributed two or three packages of the gyoza to its employees from April to June last year, according to sources. Some sources said about 30,000 people, including employees at a hospital affiliated with the firm, received the product.

Also, an employee at Chengde Iron and Steel said the product sold at the company was labeled "Chuka de Gochiso Hitokuchi Gyoza." The product was sold at four employee dining halls near the company building, and that lines had formed to buy the gyoza, according to the employee.

However, the company suddenly started recalling the remaining gyoza one or two months later, and the company did not mention any food poisonings related to the product, the employee said.

According to other sources, it is common in China for companies to help other firms suffering from poor sales by buying their products at low prices, and then selling or distributing these products to employees.

Japan Tobacco said its contract with Tianyang Food gives it the proprietary right over the products to JT when the product clears Japanese customs.

(Jan. 24, 2009)




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