Over 2800 sickened; Japan food safety badly shaken by in-company poisoning of food

With over 2,800 sick from deliberate poisoning with a pesticide at a Japanese frozen food manufacturers, the presidents of the firm did the only honorable thing: fall on their swords.

A 49-year-old contract worker at the plant where frozen food was laced with the agricultural chemical malathion has been arrested by the Gunma saturday-night-live-rye-by-the-sword1prefectural police on suspicion of obstructing business. The suspect worked at the Gunma plant of Aqli Foods Corp., a subsidiary of leading food maker Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc.

The man is suspected of lacing frozen food produced at the plant with malathion on four occasions in October. About 2,800 people across the country have complained of feeling ill after eating pizza and other frozen food produced at the plant.

The presidents of Maruha Nichiro Holdings and Aqli Foods have announced they will resign at the end of March to take responsibility for the latest incident.

The companies failed to respond promptly, taking 1½ months to launch a self-imposed recall of products after receiving a complaint in November of an odd odor from pizza manufactured at the plant. 

2800 sick; man arrested over Japan food poisoning

Japanese police have arrested a factory worker for allegedly poisoning frozen food with pesticides, in a case that sickened more than 2,800 people across the nation, news reports say.

Gunma Police Department arrested the 49-year-old man, identified as Toshiki Abe, who works at a frozen food factory in Gunma, north of Tokyo, run by a subsidiary of Maruha Nichiro Holdings, Japan’s largest seafood firm, according to public broadcaster NHK and other local media.

The suspect denied the allegations, while the motive behind the alleged crime was still unknown, NHK reported.

Local police officials declined to comment.

The subsidiary, Aqlifoods, received the first of a series of complaints in November, with a customer saying its frozen pizza smelled like machine Aqlifoods.pizzaoil.

But the firm did not announce a product recall until December 29, after tests found traces of a chemical called malathion, which is used as a pesticide and to treat head lice.

300 sick from pesticide in frozen food in Japan

More than 300 people across Japan have fallen ill after eating frozen food products contaminated with pesticide.

Shoppers have reported vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of food poisoning after eating food produced at a plant in Gunma, north of Tokyo, according to surveys carried Maruha Nichiroout by the Asahi Shimbun and other local media.

The plant, run by a subsidiary of the nation’s largest seafood firm Maruha Nichiro Holdings, is at the centre of the nation’s latest food poisoning scandal.

Japanese police have launched an investigation into the company after it revealed last month that some of its frozen food products were tainted with malathion, an agricultural chemical often used to kill aphid in corn and rice fields.

Dirty dozen food warnings are simplistic and suck

It’s end-of-year, so lists are big, and I’m fond of my Top-5 Records label list.

But some are just dumb, and it’s good to see the science types in New Zealand calling out some BS.

The Dominion Post reports tomorrow that toxicologists have accused a food safety campaigner of a lack of understanding after she advised people to eat organic celery to avoid pesticides.

Alison White has ranked celery at the top of a list of foods likely to contain pesticide residue, but scientists say that does not mean indulging in the vegetable will cause any harm.

Ms White, who is a researcher and co-convenor of the Safe Food Campaign, said consumers wanted information about whether their food contained pesticide residues.

Canterbury University toxicology professor Ian Shaw said Ms White’s table, which she published on the group’s website, displayed "naughtiness" in referencing research about cancer risks among people who sprayed vegetables, not those who ate them.

Ms White’s comments also showed she did not understand the difference between how dangerous a chemical was, and the actual chance or risk of it causing any harm.

The Food Safety Authority’s principal toxicology adviser, John Reeve, dismissed Ms White’s suggestion that pesticide residues could be making our food unsafe.

"Alison White and her colleagues have no expertise in toxicology and don’t understand the science."

Dr Reeve said pesticide limits were determined by how much of a chemical growers needed for it to work.

That limit was hundreds of times lower than the levels that would have any impact on human health, he said.

Pesticides, risk and regulation – Health Canada gets this message right

When Amy and I were in Guelph, Ontario a few weeks ago, she aksed, “what’s with all the dandelions.”

I tried to explain how municipalities, and now the province of Ontario, were proposing bans on the so-called cosmetic use of pesticides, even if the use of such chemicals had been declared safe by scientists working for the federal government.

I have no intention of getting wound up in the pros, cons or otherwise of chemical use. But what has been absent in the public discussion of various risks is the voice of the government regulator, which can lead to the creation of an information vacuum, which can lead to all kinds of erroneous information amplified through various social media. It’s a well-documented phenomena, and I co-authored a 1997 book about it, Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk.

So it was an unexpected surprise when Richard Aucoin, acting executive director of Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, penned a lucid, articulate, and well-thought out letter which appeared in the Ottawa Citizen.

“Health Canada’s priorities are the health and safety of Canadians and their food supply, and this primary mandate is applied when approving pesticides for use in Canada.

Under the Pest Control Products Act, if a pesticide (herbicide, insecticide, fungicide) meets our stringent health and environmental safety standards and proves value in its application, it must be approved for use. Only those products that meet Canada’s strict health and safety standards are registered for sale and use in Canada.

When determining if a pesticide can be used in Canada, Health Canada conducts extensive health and environmental scientific reviews.

Testing methods must have adhered to accepted international standards. The evaluation takes into account the available scientific information on potential health and environmental effects from publicly available studies including epidemiological and incident reports both nationally and internationally.

Health Canada employs over 300 qualified scientists dedicated to the evaluation of pesticides, many of whom have doctorates and masters credentials in the fields of human health sciences, environmental and agricultural sciences. This team carefully scrutinizes the scientific information available on all of the components of a product, including both the active and non-active ingredients.

In addition, before Health Canada makes a final decision on whether to allow the use of a pesticide, the Canadian public is invited to submit comments and questions.

All chemical substances have inherent risks, which is why Health Canada has a dedicated regulatory program in place to review pesticides.

Given the rigour of the evaluation process, we are confident that the pesticides approved for use in Canada, including lawn and garden products, can be used safely under the prescribed circumstances indicated on the label.

Canadians should use pesticides judiciously, carefully follow label directions, and take measures to become better informed about their safe and effective use.
Any questions about pesticides can be addressed to Health Canada’s Pesticide Information Services at 1-800-267-6315.”

Farmer’s vomit sickens 54 bystanders at hospital

Police and hospital officials said 54 people were sickened at a Kumamoto Red Cross Hospital in Kumamoto, Japan, after inhaling toxic gas from the vomit of a 34-year-old farmer who had apparently swallowed an agricultural chemical to kill himself.

He vomited while undergoing treatment, generating toxic chlorine gas.

A total of 54 people near him, including doctors and patients, fell ill. Of them, 10 were admitted to hospitals including the Red Cross Hospital, while the 44 others who were not in serious condition are steadily recovering.

If you’re going to off yourself, try not to involve involve others.