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Bad Milk Sickens Japanese

July 1, 2000

TOKYO (AP) _ The government dispatched health officials to a milk factory Saturday to look for clues in a case of food poisoning than sickened almost 6,000 people.

People living around the western Japanese city of Osaka began suffering from diarrhea and stomach cramps two days ago, after drinking lowfat milk from Snow Brand Milk Products Co., the country’s largest supplier of dairy products.

By Saturday afternoon, 5,890 people had gotten sick from the milk, and 98 of them required hospitalization, said Kohei Suda, an Osaka municipal health official. Forty-four remained in the hospital, he said.

A spokesman for Snow Brand, Makoto Wakita, said Friday the company suspects staph contamination. Staph is a common bacteria that can cause diarrhea and vomiting in people with a weakened immune system.

Officials from the Ministry of Health and Osaka heath inspectors searched the factory where the contaminated milk was produced on Saturday. The results were not immediately clear later Saturday, said ministry official Hiroshi Takimoto.

Snow Brand stopped production of lowfat milk Friday and began recalling the product from stores.

Japan has seen large-scale cases of intentional food poisoning in the past, including one case in which curry prepared for a community festival in 1997 was laced with arsenic. Four people died and 60 were sickened.

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