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Japanese police arrest man over tainted frozen food

Publication Date : 26-01-2014


A man in his late 40s was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of obstructing business by lacing frozen foods with a pesticide at a major food maker’s subsidiary plant in the town of Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture.

The man, Toshiki Abe, 49, is a contract employee working at the plant of AQLI Foods Corp., a subsidiary of Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc., police said.

Investigators detected malathion on clothes he wore at the plant. He had been missing since January 14, but was discovered in Saitama Prefecture on Friday.

Based on the processing times printed on products at two-hour intervals, police identified dozens of employees involved in the production of nine food items in which the chemical agent was detected.

Investigators also found that malathion dissolves when heated and leaves an unusual odour in tainted products. Based on such clues, police deduced that the pesticide was added not during the heating process, but immediately before the packaging process. They narrowed down a list of investigation targets to several employees before identifying the suspect in question.

A total of 2,843 people have complained of diarrhoea, vomiting and other symptoms after consuming the frozen foods on Maruha Nichiro’s product recall list as of Friday, according to statistics compiled by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry. The company started recalling all the foods made at the plant after announcing the detection of malathion on December 29.

As of Tuesday, 86 per cent of the products subject to the recall had been recovered, the company said.


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