Japan kept quiet on food scare at China's request: FM

Source of Article: http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hNhSKcj8hOANV5xhP_BwudHxFm4g

TOKYO (AFP) Japan's foreign minister said Thursday the government had withheld information about the latest health scare involving Chinese dumplings at the request of Beijing.

Chinese authorities "asked us not to disclose it because it could become an obstacle to the police investigation," Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday it had been told by Beijing that several Chinese people had fallen ill in June after eating dumplings, the same product that caused a health scare in Japan at the start of the year.

The confirmation came only after news of the latest incident appeared in the Japanese media. The government is believed to have learned about the incident about a month ago.

The government came under fire Thursday for not disclosing the information sooner.

"Even if asked by China to hide the facts, Japan should have informed China that it would disclose the facts, and should have disclosed them with dignity," said Yukio Hatoyama, the secretary general of the opposition Democratic Party.

The latest food poisoning cases in China appeared to cast doubt on Beijing's assertion that the dumplings at the centre of the incident in Japan early this year were contaminated with pesticide after leaving the country.

The issue is expected to be on the agenda when Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda meets Chinese leaders on Friday in Beijing, where he will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

"As there seems to have been some development, I would like to ask the Chinese side for their efforts toward resolving the problem," Fukuda said.

Ten people suffered pesticide poisoning in December and January in Japan after eating the frozen dumplings imported from China, while thousands more complained about feeling ill.

The dumplings that caused the illness in China are believed to have been distributed even after the manufacturer halted production at the Chinese factory and recalled the products, Japanese reports have said.



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