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Japan cities stop buying school lunch rice from trader after pigeons found in plant

(Mainichi)

OSAKA -- Four cities in western Japan have stopped buying rice for school lunches from a local supplier for hygienic reasons, after pigeons were found in its rice-polishing plant.

    The Osaka Prefecture cities of Hirakata, Neyagawa, Moriguchi and Kadoma have stopped using the rice from trader JA Kitakawachi in Hirakata. The cities are turning to other suppliers or switching from rice to bread for school lunches.

    According to the Moriguchi Municipal Government, guardians of students at a municipal elementary school visited the JA Kitakawachi plant to check the rice-polishing machine after a metal staple was found in rice served at the school on May 17, and confirmed that there were multiple pigeons in the plant, as well as bird droppings and feathers. The Hirakata public health center inspected the plant on May 20 and demanded the trader take sanitary measures including preventing pigeons from getting inside.

    JA Kitakawachi explained that pigeon droppings and feathers do not get mixed in with rice because the structure of the polishing machine prevents foreign objects from getting in. However, the supplier's head stated on May 23, "We are examining ourselves for causing discomfort, and apologize to everyone." The trader is suspending rice-polishing and shipment until all pigeons are eliminated from the plant and it can be disinfected.

    The superintendent of education at the Moriguchi Municipal Board of Education and officials from Hirakata, Neyagawa and Kadoma checked the rice-polishing plant and questioned staff at JA Kitakawachi on May 23. Moriguchi switched school meal rice suppliers on May 20, and Hirakata and Kadoma did the same on May 23. Neyagawa has switched from rice to bread, and will use rice from another trader from the week starting May 30. Officials at all four cities said that the moves have not affected the provision of school lunches.

    (Japanese original by Chika Yokomi, Osaka Bureau)

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