Chinese dumplings sold in Japan poisoned on purpose

Published 6 February 2008

Japan claims that made-in-China frozen dumplings which caused ten Japanese to fall ill, were contaminated on purpose with a highly toxic organophoshate pesticide methamidophos; Japan, China investigate

Here is another cause for worry: Chinese dumplings which were laced with pesticide and made at least ten Japanese people ill were probably poisoned on purpose, Japan’s health minister says. The frozen dumplings were contaminated with a highly toxic organophoshate pesticide methamidophos. “Judging from the circumstantial evidence, we’d have to think that it’s highly likely to be a crime,” Yoichi Masuzoe told reporters. The BBC reports that the issue has triggered intensive media coverage and public alarm in Japan. Japanese police say they want to work with their Chinese counterparts to investigate how the dumplings, known as gyoza in Japan, were poisoned.

The problem emerged last Wednesday, when ten people were reported to have fallen ill from the dumplings — thin dough packets containing ground meat and vegetables which are then fried. The dosage of pesticide was sufficiently concentrated to leave one five-year-old girl seriously ill. By late Thursday there were unconfirmed reports of dozens of other cases. The Japanese distributor, JT Foods, quickly recalled the dumplings and other products made by the same Chinese company, Tianyang Food. China says preliminary tests on two batches of the dumplings found them to be safe. The two countries have not yet ratified an agreement to allow investigators to travel between them though so any contacts will be made through diplomatic channels. In the meantime the Japanese will try to rule out the possibility that the dumplings were poisoned in Japan after they had been brought in from China. In recent months, Chinese-made products have been involved in several safety scares, but Japan has also had its problems. Last year, confectioners admitted to mislabelling expiry dates on biscuits and rice cakes.