The local government of the Mie prefecture has suspended the operations of confectionery group Akafuku after investigations showed it had been reusing withdrawn products and falsifying labels on its Akafuku brand bean-jam sweets which are sold as souvenir products to visitors to the Ise Shrine in the region.

According to the Kyodo news agency, the local authority said Akafuku had contravened the food sanitation law. The report also stated that the authority plans to search Akafuku's main factory in Ise and other sites.

Noriyasu Hamada, Akafuku's president, appeared immediately to concede culpability. At a press conference last night, he said: "'I am sorry for our consumers and related people that this has happened.''

Hamada added that there had been systemic falsification. ''Reusing of withdrawn products has been habitually conducted," he said.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry revealed the labelling falsification last week, and instructed the company to address the matter.