Officials of a major processed food company subsidiary that found residue of pesticide in its frozen food products believe the goods were adulterated with the toxic chemical at several different times at the company’s factory located in the Gunma Prefecture. Hundreds of people across 32 prefectures are reported to have gotten sick from eating their food products and over 445,000 phone call complaints since December 29 have been logged by food company Maruha Nichiro.
Aqli Foods Co., a subsidiary of Maruha, found traces of malathione, a known organic phosphate used as a pesticide in nine samples of seven different packages of their pizza, fried foods and croquette products manufactured between October 4 and November 5. According to Aqli Foods, their frozen foods are processed and frozen in separate rooms for each product before the packaging phase with at least 80 employees working in the packaging room in shifts. Afterwards, the products are kept in interim storage freezers for one to two weeks before distributing it across the country from their warehouses located in Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures.
The Gunma Prefectural Government concluded that it is doubtful the pesticide was mixed with the products during the distribution process or that even the pre-process raw materials would contain such chemical. Police investigation and other sources believe that products were intentionally contaminated at the factory’s packaging room more than once between the dates of Oct. 4 and Nov. 5. A male factory employee, however, said that it is impossible to sneak into the freezer outside operation hours as freezers are locked every night at 10 p.m. after operation hours end and guards are stationed there to secure the area. Company officials kept mum on other details as the investigation is still ongoing.
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