Pesticide Contamination in Frozen Foods Shocks Japan

Manufacturer Maruha Nichiro has been under investigation since December, when the pesticide malathion was found in several of their products.

More than 1,000 people have fallen ill in Japan after eating pesticide-contaminated frozen food produced by a company that was already under investigation for prior contamination allegations, according to the Japanese news service Jiji Press. More than 200 have fallen ill in the northern main island of Hokkaido alone, although there have been no reports of life-threatening illnesses.

The Health Ministry said it had confirmed 556 people suffering such symptoms as vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms of food poisoning after eating products including pizza and lasagna made by a subsidiary of Maruha Nichiro Holdings, the nation's largest seafood firm. Public broadcaster NHK said Wednesday that its tally found 1,700 people sickened after eating the Maruha Nichiro products, while Kyodo News agency put the number at 1,400.

While food scares do happen in Japan, like in 2012 when cabbage riddled with E. coli killed seven people and sickened dozens, standards are relatively high. However, the country's much-vaunted reputation for safe and high-quality food has been badly affected by the Fukushima atomic disaster, which saw acres of farmland polluted by nuclear fallout. Many countries now restrict agricultural imports from the area.

Police began investigating Maruha Nichiro last month after it revealed that some of its frozen food had been tainted with malathion, an agricultural chemical often used to kill aphids in corn and rice fields. Detectives are looking at the possibility that the pesticide was deliberately added to the food at some stage of production at a factory in Gunma, north of Tokyo.

The food maker has recalled 6.4 million potentially tainted products, with 1.5 million packages recovered so far. None of the products in question had been shipped overseas. To read more, click HERE.