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Tainted rice dealings began 1˝ years ago, officials learn

Date Posted: 2008-10-03

Mikasa Foods’ wheeling and dealing in tainted rice began as early as January 2007, but the country’s farm ministry says it was not able to specifically identify illegalities until a few weeks ago.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister has appeared before the Diet to explain how the rice scandal began, and how it was finally uncovered. “I would like to deeply apologize to consumers and the public,” Minister Seiichi Ota says, “for causing concern and trouble over the illegal distribution of tainted rice.” Ota told the Diet hearings that after his ministry first suspected problems, inspections were increased.

A total of 96 inspections had been made at Mikasa Foods since 2004, but the coverup was well in place. “It goes without saying that the illegal activities by Mikasa Foods and other companies were outrageous.” Mikasa Foods has admitted it purchased non-edible rice from the Japanese government at very low prices, then turned around and sold it as edible rice to bakeries and distilleries at a large profit.

The fallout continues daily, with more companies admitting they were victims. A food processing firm says supermarkets and convenience stores in eight prefectures sold about 102,000 rice balls with pesticide residue or toxic mold , while Kyoto City says more than 5,254 school lunches at 47 junior high schools were served with tainted rice. In Osaka, 5,800 packages of herbal medicines have been recalled because of possible starch in the products made with the bad rice.

Japanese law sets the limit on the pesticide methamidophos at 0.01 parts per million in rice. The tainted rice being discovered throughout the country has methamidophos at many times that permissible level.

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