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3RD LEAD: Staphylococcus aureus suspected in milk poisoning.

OSAKA, June 30 Kyodo

(EDS: UPDATING THE NUMBER OF VICTIMS IN LEAD PARA)

Wakayama City health officials said Friday they suspect Staphylococcus aureus bacteria could be what caused more than 3,000 people to fall sick this past week in Osaka and nearby prefectures in western Japan after drinking low-fat milk produced by Snow Brand Milk Products Co.

The officials said they detected a gene that produces a toxin from Staphylococcus aureus in three samples of the milk. The victims suffered diarrhea, abdominal pains and vomiting after drinking the product.

However, they have been unable to detect the toxin or bacteria. They also stopped short of establishing Staphylococcus aureus as the cause of the illnesses as the bacteria can exist naturally in milk.

Staphylococcus aureus is a spherical bacterium capable of producing a toxin that causes illness in humans.

The milk, packaged in 1-liter and 500-milliliter cartons, was produced Friday and Saturday last week at the company's factory in Osaka's Miyakojima Ward.

A total of 128,000 cartons were produced during the two-day period, Snow Brand officials said.

As of 8 p.m. Friday, 3,137 victims in eight prefectures had been reported. Osaka Prefecture has the largest number of victims at 2,134, followed by Wakayama at 441, Hyogo at 228, Nara at 226, Kyoto at 94, Shiga at 11, Hiroshima at two and Okayama at one.

Shiga Prefecture had four reported victims, Hiroshima two and Okayama one.

Health authorities said most victims are not in serious condition.

Osaka City officials ordered a recall of the low-fat milk produced on or after June 23 at the Miyakojima plant, affecting some 298,000 cartons.

On Thursday, Snow Brand announced it has halted low-fat milk production at the plant, and said the cartons of low-fat milk shipped since Saturday last week were subject to recall. But the company has so far retrieved only 19,000 cartons, according to its officials.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Jul 3, 2000
Words:319
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