Has China given up on probe for truth?
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Newspaper, Tokyo, Japan)
It would be highly undesirable if the shelving of fact-finding efforts into the recent food poisoning caused by Chinese-made frozen gyoza results in an emotional confrontation between Japan and China.
The Chinese Public Security Ministry said at a press conference Thursday that there was an extremely low likelihood the gyoza became contaminated in China with the organic phosphorus pesticide methamidophos.
A senior official of the ministry also said the Japanese side had not provided results requested by China of tests carried out in Japan on the tainted gyoza.
China’s assertion is completely at odds with an explanation given by the National Police Agency based on investigations by the Japanese police so far that “the possibility the pesticide was mixed into gyoza in Japan is extremely low.”
Denial can’t go unchallenged
Furthermore, according to the NPA, it did provide the test results to the Chinese side. The NPA also says its repeated requests for the Chinese side to reveal information concerning investigations into past poisoning incidents caused by methamidophos in China have not been met. In light of these details, NPA Commissioner General Hiroto Yoshimura had good reason to issue a strong rebuttal, saying that China’s assertion “cannot go unchallenged.”
The Chinese side previously proposed investigating the case with a joint investigation team comprising Japanese and Chinese authorities.
The latest Chinese announcement came immediately after a senior official of the NPA visited China and agreed with the Chinese side to accelerate the investigation by encouraging closer coordination and the exchange of evidence for an early settlement. This development threatens to endanger future bilateral cooperation on the investigation.
Some observers believe a political decision at a level far above the investigation authorities may have been made in China.
But, in contrast with the NPA’s backlash against the Chinese denial, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said: “China said it wanted to thoroughly investigate the case in cooperation with Japan. They seem very willing to do so.”
The prime minister apparently wants to avoid the issue developing into a political one. This may be the right approach to take.
Safety before politics
It must be noted that the issue is related to food safety, though. The reality of the current situation is that more and more consumers are hesitating to buy Chinese-made food products.
An attempt to settle the issue politically by keeping the facts ambiguous will only serve to leave emotional ill will on both sides. It may also lead to growing distrust among consumers.
The Chinese side also said there was no possible culprit among the workers at the gyoza factory in question and that no problems were found in any part of the factory’s production process, from the handling of raw materials such as vegetables to the production and shipping processes.
However, even if a suspect were found among the workers, that person might not quickly admit to contaminating the products. It is also unclear if the Chinese side checked up on former workers such as those who recently retired or were fired.
China also said that “under certain conditions methamidophos can penetrate product packaging.” Logically, this means the products could have been tainted with the pesticide in Japan. But most members of the public will remain unconvinced by such an elaborate hypothesis of how the tainting took place.
China should do its best to find out what really happened by closely cooperating with the Japanese investigative authorities and taking preventive measures. Only in this way can China regain the trust of Japanese consumers in Chinese-made food products.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 1, 2008)
(Mar. 1, 2008)