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New Scandal Involving Japanese Food Company Hits the Headlines - 2002-07-19

In Japan, a leading Internet access provider considers a joint venture, and a new scandal involving a food company hits the headlines. A second Japanese meat processor has been accused of intentionally mislabeling beef. Police have searched Nippon Shokuhin, a bankrupt meat processor in southern Japan that is suspected of falsely labeling imported beef as domestic to receive government subsidies. The Agriculture Ministry has filed criminal complaints against two of the company's executives.

Tokyo introduced a beef buyback program to help meat companies hit by a sales slump after an outbreak of mad cow disease last year. Nippon Shokuhin, which filed for bankruptcy court protection earlier this month, is alleged to have received about one-million dollars from the government under false pretenses.

Agricultural Minister Tsutomu Takebe said he is outraged that the scandal occurred. He said his ministry will respond aggressively.

Snow Brand Foods, a well-known brand across the country, was involved in a similar case, and police arrested five company officials in May.

Mad cow disease is thought to cause a fatal brain disease in humans that has killed about 100 people around the world, mostly in Europe.

Internet Initiative Japan, a Japanese Internet service provider, and PoweredCom, a data communications company, may join forces.

They aim to run a national fiber optic network and become leaders in the telecommunications industry. Two companies will announce concrete plans by the end of this year.

The Bank of Japan this week upgraded its economic assessment for the fifth consecutive month. Brisk exports and an improvement in corporate sentiment are behind the bright outlook. However, the central bank remains concerned about faltering worldwide stock markets and the soaring Japanese currency.

The yen recently appreciated to 115.54 against the dollar, its strongest level in 17 months. That creates difficulties for Japan's exporters, whose goods become more expensive to buyers in other nations.