Reports vary from at least 890 to more than 1,000 people sick. About 300 employees of Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc., the company that produced the tainted food, have been questioned by police as the investigation has been launched into mass poisoning.
Maruha Nichiro Holdings is recalling about 6.4 million bags of frozen foods, including croquettes, frozen pizza and chicken nuggets, after 2.6 million times the permitted levels of pesticide were found in the products.1.2 million packages have been recovered, another 5.2 million are still unaccounted for.
“Maruha Nichiro Holdings test products several times a day for evidence of spoilage but we had no reason to believe pesticides would be present, so we did not test for that,” Ichiro Gohara, a spokesman for the company told Bloomberg News.
Symptoms of the poisoning include vomiting and diarrhea, and customers complained of a strong odor from the foods. According to Maruha Nichiro, none of the contaminated products has been shipped to other countries.
Malathion is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use on crops and is also an ingredient in head lice treatments.
In western Osaka Prefecture, a nine-month-old baby was hospitalized on Monday after eating a product called ‘creamy corn croquettes’, according to AFP. Consumers complained about having food poisoning symptoms, like diarrhea, vomiting and stomach aches after eating
Police suspect that the malathion, which is usually used to fight bug influxes in corn and rice fields, was mixed into the products at the plant run by Aqli Foods, a company owned by Maruha Nichiro.
None of the tainted products have been shipped to other countries.
A May 2010 study found that in a representative sample of US children, those with higher levels of pesticide metabolites in their urine were more likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, but no causal relationship was established. Each 10-fold increase in urinary concentration of the metabolites was associated with a 55% to 72% increase in the odds of ADHD..