The director of Hebei Province's quality inspection agency told reporters in Shijiazhuang on Friday that the two batches of dumplings involved in food poisoning case in Japan were unlikely to have been contaminated during the transportation process in China.
Investigations had shown that the dumplings were kept in the shipping container after they left the manufacturer, Tianyang Food Plant, and the inspection and quarantine authority of Hebei Province made sure that the door and seal of the container were intact when the shipment arrived at the customs facility, said director Cheng Fang.
The customs officials followed the rules, checked the documentation for the goods and let the container through without opening it, the official told a press conference held at the company's headquarters.
Earlier this month, Japanese and Chinese investigators inspected the company but found nothing irregular. They also found no problems related to the purchase of raw materials or the production process.
"The plant is very clean and well-managed, and no abnormality has been detected," a Japanese investigator told the press after the inspection. He said Japan would conduct a further analysis based on data collected in the plant.
Di Menglu, head of Tianyang, said that there was little possibility of contamination during production. Workers had to wear work clothes that covered them from head to toe and pass through two checkpoints before they could enter the production area, to ensure that they brought nothing in.
Cameras monitored the entire production line, and the large number of workers grouped in close conditions would make it difficult to do anything without detection, he said.
Nearly a hundred journalists from home and broad, 66 of them from 19 Japanese media organizations such as Kyodo News Agency, NHK and Asahi Shimbun, were also invited on Friday to visit the Hebei factory. They watched all the production processes wearing sanitized suits.
"I was asked to wipe off my make-up before entering the production areas, which meant they had very strict sanitation control here," said a Phoenix TV reporter Qin Feng, "the media visit this time was quite open, and I have seen everything and every place I intended to check."
Production at the 800-worker factory had been suspended since the incident, and the recalled dumplings were kept in the cold storage, with seals from the inspection authority, he said. "We suffered severe losses."
"With no work to do, we had to stay at home, waiting for the solution," said Yan Aiguo, a worker.
Tianyang Food Plant has been exporting to Japan for 10 years, and it sent 3,970 tonnes of dumplings to Japan last year.
Di quoted an announcement from the Japanese Ministry of Education dated Feb. 6, which said that other schools serving dumplings from the same batches did not report any poisoning cases.
Earlier tests showed the rest of the dumplings from the same batches sold in Japan, totaling more than 2,000 packages, were safe. So were all the other products made by the Chinese company.
A Japanese local government official admitted on Thursday that a pesticide detected on the outside of the packaging of some Chinese-made dumplings was dichlorvos, which had been used in the store.
At a news conference, Tokushima Prefecture Governor Kamon Iizumi said that dichlorvos had also been detected on frozen food made in Japan and showcases at the store, but the amount had been too small to cause any injury, Kyodo News reported.
The governor denied any relationship between the incident and the unsolved poisoning cases involving Chinese-made dumplings sold in Japan. Japanese media reported 10 people fell ill in December and January after consuming frozen meat dumplings produced by Tianyang Food Plant.
Analysts said that the case in Tokushima indicated the possibility that food products might be contaminated during the distribution and retail process in Japan.
The Japanese health ministry issued a notice in 2004 forbidding the placement of pesticide in areas for foods.
Japanese police had established a joint task force from the two prefectures Chiba and Hyogo - home of the 10 victims - to investigate the food poisoning incident as attempted murder.