Japan ready to strike food safety deal with China
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Posted 3/28/10 , edited 3/28/10
Japan ready to strike food safety deal with China

Sunday 28th March, 09:06 AM JST


Japan plans to make final arrangements with China for a bilateral deal on food safety, following the detention of a Chinese man suspected of involvement in poisoning frozen dumplings that made 10 people ill in Japan two years ago, government sources said Saturday.

Tokyo hopes to reach a formal agreement with Beijing by the time Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama visits China for an expo in Shanghai, possibly in early May, the sources said.

The envisaged deal, which would allow for mutual on-site inspections of facilities processing food for export, has been sought by both nations since last October, when Hatoyama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao agreed to create a new initiative to ensure food safety.

Concerns lingered on the Japanese side that striking such a deal before the dumpling poisoning case was settled would leave the case up in the air.

But the recent detention of Lu Yueting, a 36-year-old former temporary employee at the Tianyang Food Plant in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province, has cleared the path for accelerating talks on a bilateral agreement, a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

Under a draft accord prepared by working-level officials from Japan and China, Japanese and Chinese personnel would be allowed to carry out on-site inspections of food facilities in each other’s countries, contingent on the other side’s approval.

The pesticide-tainted dumplings manufactured by Tianyang Food caused 10 people to fall ill in Japan from December 2007 to January 2008, with nine of them hospitalized, sparking anxiety across the country over products imported from China.

Japan and China agreed to cooperate in investigating the case. In February 2008, both sides denied that the dumplings were tainted with methamidophos in their own countries and China suspended its probe.

In June the same year, Chinese people who ate dumplings recalled by Tianyang Food complained of similar methamidophos poisoning, prompting the Chinese authorities to reopen their investigation, suspecting deliberate tainting of the dumplings at the company.

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