Fri, Feb 01, 2008 - Page 1 News List

Japan, China scramble to contain dumpling scare

AFP , TOKYO

China and Japan scrambled to ease public alarm yesterday as hundreds of Japanese reported feeling ill after eating Chinese-made dumplings, triggering an emergency Cabinet session in Tokyo.

The Cabinet met to discuss a response as TV networks broadcast the stories of people who said they vomited, passed out and felt near death after eating the frozen meat dumplings.

China said pre-export tests had found no pesticides in the product, but still ordered the companies that made them to halt production and recall similar items from Japan.

"Relevant authorities have immediately suspended the export and production at the concerned enterprises and producers have been ordered to contact their Japanese import partners and recall all concerned dumplings," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao (劉建超) said.

South Korea's food and drug administration ordered checks on all dumplings from China, although officials said none of the brands at the center of the Japan scare appeared to have been imported to that country.

Whatever the origin, the health scare is another public relations blow for China.

Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura raised the issue during talks with China's Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei (何亞非), who was visiting to arrange a visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤).

The Chinese minister "said that this was regrettable," Komura told reporters after the talks.

"This is a grave concern for China as well," Komura added. "This is about food safety, the most important interest for people ... But it will not hurt relations between Japan and China."

Public broadcaster NHK said 207 people across the country had told officials they had felt ill after eating Chinese dumplings.

A health ministry official said the government had confirmed only that 13 people fell ill, including a five-year-old girl in serious condition.

TV Asahi broadcast interviews with a family in the western town of Takasago who said they spent up to three weeks in hospital after eating the dumplings.

"They tasted bitter. I felt dizzy some 30 seconds after I had them, and I collapsed," said an 18-year-old boy who asked not to be identified.

Then, five minutes later, his 51-year-old father's body started twitching.

"With so much nausea and diarrhoea, I thought for two days that I was dying," the father said.

The 47-year-old mother said she could not walk or talk.

"My whole body was paralyzed and my eyes kept watering," she said. "I don't want to buy frozen food any more."

TAIWAN

The Bureau of Food Sanitation issued a press release yesterday assuring the public that no tainted dumplings have been imported into Taiwan. Meat and meat products from China are not approved to be imported for disease control reasons, the bureau said.

Additional reporting by Angelica Oung

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