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Japan’s Leader Visits E. Coli Epidemic Site

Japan’s prime minister made his first visit Tuesday to the area hit hardest by a food poisoning epidemic that has killed seven people and infected more than 9,000.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto visited Sakai, 300 miles west of Tokyo, and said the government was doing everything possible to try to control the epidemic.

As of late Monday, 9,256 people had been infected with E. coli O157, and 430 were hospitalized, said Yasuyuki Osada of the health ministry’s food sanitation division. Only two of Japan’s 47 prefectures have not reported any cases.

Health officials believe tainted school lunches set off the outbreak in Sakai, where more than 6,400 people, mostly children, have been infected. But they have been unable to pinpoint the specific foods that spread it.

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