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Tokyo Meat Packer Accused Of Mislabeling Chicken

Head of the Yamagataya meat marketer allegedly sold Brazilian chicken to the Urayasu government and local schools with ‘certificates’ claiming the meat was domestic.

CHIBA, Japan, (Kyodo) -- Police sent papers Wednesday on a Tokyo-based meat packer and its chief to prosecutors on suspicion of having delivered Brazilian chicken for school lunches in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, by falsely labeling it as domestically produced, they said.

Yoshio Okuyama, 65, head of the Yamagataya meat marketer, allegedly sold 680 kilograms of Brazilian chicken on 14 occasions to the municipal government of Urayasu in July 2006 with "certificates" claiming the meat was produced in Iwate Prefecture, according to the investigation.

"I'm to blame (for the mislabeling) and I did it for my own self-interest," Okuyama was quoted as telling investigators. He is also said to have confessed that he thought people wouldn't be able to tell whether the meat was produced in Brazil or not.

While the local authority stipulates that only domestic meat be used for school lunches and requires suppliers to submit certificates of origin, the meat packer forged certificates by copying old documents issued when real Iwate meat was sold, according to the police.

The company had been delivering meat to the Urayasu municipality from around 1989. When the malfeasance was brought to light, Brazilian poultry traded wholesale for about 310 yen per kilogram, only half the average of domestic chicken prices.

The meat in question was shipped to a total of 25 primary and junior high schools and served to about 15,000 students. But no health problems have been reported, the police said.

The city government filed a criminal complaint in December 2006 after receiving an anonymous tip-off in late July that year.