State watchdogs: dumpling poisoning is case of sabotage
www.chinaview.cn 2008-02-28 11:00:24   Print

    BEIJING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- The poisoning incident of Chinese dumplings exported to Japan was a special case of sabotage and it is unlikely to have happened in China, said China's security and quality watchdogs on Thursday.

    "After comprehensive investigation, we believe there's little chance that methamidophos was put into dumplings in China," said Yu Xinmin, the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) criminal investigation bureau deputy director, at a press conference.

    The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), China's quality watchdog, told the media it came to the same conclusion after finding no harmful chemicals in relative products and samples and no abnormal operations on the part of the Chinese producer.

    "We conclude that the dumpling poisoning incident is an individual contrived case instead of a case of food safety resulting from pesticide residue," said Wei Chuanzhong, AQSIQ deputy chief.

    In January, Japanese media reported 10 people fell ill in the country after consuming frozen meat dumplings. They were produced by Tianyang Food Plant based in north China's Hebei Province.

    Japanese authorities found methamidophos in the vomit of those poisoned and in food packages at their houses.

    But sample tests show the rest of the same batch of dumplings and other batches made at about the same time by the Chinese company were safe. So were the raw materials used in production, said Wei.

    The plant had strict quarantine measures for the working staff and videotaped all producing procedures in real time. That made it hardly possible to apply poison in the workshops, he said.

    The dumplings, once out of factory, were instantly loaded into container boxes with lead sealing. The boxes were not opened until they reached Japan, when no unusual situation was found, either.

    Experiments show methamidohpos, an insecticide, can penetrate into sealed packages from the outside, said Wang Guiqiang, an expert on evidence authentication with the ministry.

    ELUSIVE TRUTH

    The Japanese police argued it's unlikely the sabotage happened in Japan. They said they concluded the opposite results of similar experiments and found impurities in the methamidohpos, which showed the substance was not produced in Japan.

    "Our tests can better reflect the real situation as our choice of materials and design are closer to realities," Wang said.

    He noted impurities found by the Japanese police were usual by-products in methamidophos and couldn't prove the source of the substance.

    The conclusions of Chinese and Japanese police were different but both based on their own evidence, said Yu, urging the two countries to further cooperate in investigations until the truth comes out.

    "I didn't mean the crime must have been committed in Japan," he told reporters.

    Meanwhile, Wei said the ongoing investigation cannot eliminate the possibility of the pesticide being obtained from other countries and then brought to Japan. He stressed investigators should be open to all possibilities.

    Chinese police caught an unidentified number of Japanese journalists trying to carry methamidophos they illegally purchased in Hebei out of the province on Feb. 15, Wei said. He didn't specify their identity or other details.

    China banned the use of methamidophos in agricultural production in 2007 and has made it illegal to produce, sell, carry and transport the substance since the beginning of 2008.

    FOOD SAFETY JITTERS

    The dumpling poisoning case has triggered a food scare in Japan, followed by a series of reports on China-made food products tainted by pesticide residue.

    Pesticide was detected in frozen mackerel, steamed stuffed buns and cuttlefish tempura exported from China to Japan, as was reported.

    However, those reports were either publicized without going through official tests or proved false later by double-checks conducted by Japanese authorities.

    "Some Japanese franchisers and importers were a little unfair and subjective on those testing results," said Wei. "They were somewhat irresponsible when releasing the results."

    He said the issues have done harm to Chinese food products, calling for a sensible thinking on the dumpling case.

    Statistics were cited at the press conference showing 99.81 percent of China-made food products in Japan were qualified in 2007, higher than the 99.37 percent for food exported from Japan to China.

    "China's food safety can be guaranteed," said Wei. "We hope the media can reflect the real situation objectively."

    He said the Chinese government has rapidly organized investigations and made transparent, in-time information disclosures in the involved cases.

    The government has halted the company's production and sale and recalled other products it made. Japanese investigators and overseas reporters have been invited to the plant.

    Both Chinese and Japanese investigators agreed that the Tianyang Food Plant has good management and is a well-regulated operation.

    COOPERATION NEEDED

    China also sent a team of experts to Japan for joint investigations, but was not provided with any samples of the dumplings that poisoned the Japanese consumers or vomit samples.

    "The Japanese side rejected our requirement to check the scene, relative material evidences and test reports. Information on the evidence was not fully provided to us," said Yu. "We deeply regretted that."

    Wei urged China and Japan to establish a long-term cooperation mechanism as soon as possible.

    On Feb. 21, the AQSIQ submitted to the Minister of the Japanese Embassy to China a draft agreement on food safety cooperation with Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

    "We hope to receive active responses from the Japanese side and sign the agreement as soon as possible," said Wei.

    He said that the AQSIQ hoped the two parties would hold regular meetings, set up liaison offices, coordinate in dealing with major food safety incidents and exchange personnel, information and technologies.

    China and other governments like the United States and Europe Union have relied on close cooperation to solve food safety problems.

    "Product quality problems in international trade can be settled with trading rules and principles. It's a normal process," said Wei.

    China has recalled sub-standard exports and blacklisting unqualified producers. Any company that has problems but fails to make immediate improvements would have their export qualification removed.

    The government urgently needed seamless supervision and management of the whole chain of raw material processing, production, packaging and transport of food exports, said Wei. 

Editor: Yao Siyan
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