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Snow Brand workers 'lack knowledge' of bacterial toxin.

SAPPORO, Aug. 24 Kyodo

All the employees at Snow Brand Milk Products Co.'s Hokkaido plant, including the plant chief, lacked knowledge of a bacterial toxin linked to a tainted-milk scandal involving Japan's top dairy products maker, Hokkaido government officials said Thursday.

It was also found that the employees did not have a manual stipulating how to dispose of raw milk suspected of being tainted in the event of an accident, such as a power failure, they said.

The Hokkaido government on Wednesday ordered the company to suspend operations at the plant in Taiki, southern Hokkaido, after discovering a bacterial toxin in samples of powdered skimmed milk produced at the plant.

Prefectural government health officials said they have detected in the samples high levels of enterotoxin A, a toxin produced by the staphylococcus aureus bacterium and which causes food poisoning.

A company official said about 125,000 packages of milk and dairy products made by the company's Osaka plant from Aug. 13 to 15 were found to contain powdered skimmed milk produced at the Taiki factory.

The powdered skim milk was used as an ingredient in four dairy products made at Snow Brand's Osaka plant that caused widespread food poisoning in western Japan in June and July, making more than 14,500 people ill, the official said.

The Hokkaido government believes a March 31 power failure at the Taiki factory led to raw milk being stored at higher temperatures, allowing the growth of staphylococcus aureus bacterium in the milk.

The factory did not dispose of the tainted milk but used it to make products after sterilizing it at high temperature, a Hokkaido official said.

Part of the sterilized milk was then recycled to make the powdered skimmed milk, the official explained.

Taiki factory workers told Hokkaido government health inspectors that they thought the bacterial toxin would be killed if milk was sterilized at high temperature, admitting they did not understand that enterotoxin would not die even if sterilized at 100 C.

The heath officials said no worker at the plant, including the chief, had any knowledge of enterotoxin.

Snow Brand's Hokkaido branch said the factory failed to dispose of the tainted milk as a result of the confusion caused by the power failure.

A company official also said the company was compiling a manual to deal with such emergencies.
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Aug 28, 2000
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