Frozen Foods in Pesticide Recall Sicken 900 in Japan, NHK Says

As many as 890 people in Japan reported vomiting, diarrhea and stomach aches after eating frozen food products made by Maruha Nichiro Holdings that may have been tainted with pesticides, public broadcaster NHK reported today.

The number of complaints reported across the country was based on NHK’s own survey as of yesterday evening, according to the broadcast.

The Tokyo-based processed food producer said Dec. 29 it was recalling 6.4 million packs of frozen foods, including pizzas and croquettes, made by a unit in Japan’s eastern Gunma prefecture. It has completed 23 percent of the recall as of Jan. 6, according to a statement on its website yesterday.

The concentration of the pesticide malathion detected in part of a croquette made by the unit was 2.6 million times higher than the permitted level, the Japan Times reported today, citing an unidentified Gunma prefecture official.

High concentration of the pesticide could be damaging to health if consumed in large amounts, Japan’s Health Ministry said in a statement dated Dec. 30.

Malathion wasn’t used in the company’s manufacturing process and may have been deliberately added to the foods after they were produced, according to the Japan Times report. Local police have questioned several workers responsible for the production line, the report said, citing an unidentified police spokesman.

Shares of Maruha Nichiro have dropped 4.8 percent since the recall announcement.