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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japanese Confections Baron Resigns

TOKYO -- The president of a major Japanese cake and candy maker said Monday that he was stepping down after acknowledging the company had repeatedly used old milk and other ingredients in cream puffs and other products.

The scandal at Fujiya Co. has alarmed the nation -- in part because of a similar scandal at Snow Brand Milk Products in 2000, in which old milk sickened more than 14,000 people, the country's worst outbreak of food poisoning.

Although Fujiya's problem has not caused food poisoning, it has been devastating for its public image. Japanese media have been widely covering the scandal, saying Fujiya had not learned from the Snow Brand fiasco.

Tokyo-based Fujiya is a century-old family business famous for its lip-smacking life-size mascots called "Peko-chan," which stand in front of the nationwide Fujiya chain confectioneries.

"I am resigning to take responsibility," Fujiya president Rintaro Fujii, 64, said on nationally televised news.

The date of the resignation was not set, and Fujii will first work to ensure the safety of Fujiya products, company spokeswoman Toshie Hara said.

In a news release Monday, Fujiya said an internal investigation unveiled 18 cases over the last seven years in which expired ingredients were used at a plant in Saitama, near Tokyo, including milk, cream, eggs, and blueberry jam.

The company apologized and acknowledged the investigation had found "a serious systematic problem."

In five of the cases, the ingredients were one day past the expiration date, but the dates were unclear in the other cases, it said.

Fujiya said it had also detected bacteria levels exceeding legal limits at a plant in Sapporo, in northern Japan.