A major Japanese meat processor said today it was recalling millions of packages of sausages and pizzas after finding cyanide in water at one of its plants.
Itoham Foods said in a public notice published in national newspapers that tests have found up to three times the government limit of cyanide in the well water normally used in the products.
The announcement was the latest in a raft of recalls following reports of contamination.
The industrial chemical melamine was found in a host of Chinese-made milk products in September, triggering massive recalls in dozens of countries, including Japan.
Separately, Japan’s top instant noodle maker, Nissin Food Products announced domestic recalls on Friday of its Cup Noodle instant noodles after a woman grew sick from eating noodles that were later found to be tainted with an insecticide.
The latest recall covers nearly 2.7 million packages of sausages and pizza sold in Japan.
Itoham said it had detected large amounts of cyanide in the water at two of the three wells at its factory in Chiba, near Tokyo. Tests were still being carried out on sausages to see if they had been tainted.
Cyanide, often used in fertilisers, can seep into ground water, where small amounts are often found.
Itoham spokesman Yoshiro Matsuzaki said this was the first time in its 40 years of operation that the company had found unhealthy levels of cyanide in its wells.
The country’s second-biggest meat processor, based in Nishinomiya, western Japan, said it believed the products would not pose any risk to health if consumed. The company said it has not received any reports of health problems and the recalls are voluntary.
“Please accept our sincere apology,” Itoham said in a statement. “We will do our utmost to prevent future problems and ensure product safety.”
Japan has been hit by several high-profile food scandals involving contamination and mislabelling, and the government is considering creating a new, specialised agency to monitor food and product safety.