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Joint Investigation into Poison Dumplings Case

A team of Chinese experts held talks with their Japanese counterparts on Sunday over a food-poisoning case involving Chinese-made frozen dumplings.

During the talks, at the Japanese Cabinet Office, the experts held a "candid exchange of views" over the ongoing investigation into the incident and agreed to continue discussions today, according to the five-member Chinese team.

The talks will concentrate on the question of how the pesticide methamidophos got into the food products in a mysteriously huge amount. The producer, the Tianyang Food Plant in northern China's Hebei Province, has never used methamidophos.

The two sides have agreed to refrain from making any subjective conclusions before a thorough and full investigation, Chinese embassy officials said.

Li Chunfeng, vice director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, has pledged to cooperate closely with the Japanese for an objective and fair outcome.

The dumplings suspected of causing the food-poisoning outbreak in Japan had passed a local inspection, a quarantine chief said on Saturday.

China has banned the use of methamidophos on all fruit and vegetable crops since 2004.

"Tests showed that the material providers, Tianyang Food Co, had never used this substance," Cheng Fang, Hebei Provincial Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau director, said.

At least 10 people in Japan's Hyogo and Chiba prefectures reported stomach aches, vomiting or diarrhea after eating dumplings produced by Tianyang Food Co between October 1 and 20, according to Japanese media.

"We investigated samples of dumplings which made the Japanese ill, as well as dumplings produced around October 1 and 20. No traces of the pesticide was found," Cheng said.

"We queried 30 workers at Tianyang and looked at the purchasing, manufacturing, storage and transport processes of the factory without finding any problem in food quality."

The company suspended production last Wednesday and its products were recalled. The products are not sold domestically.

(Xinhua News Agency and Shanghai Daily February 4, 2008)

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