The man charged with lacing frozen food products with a pesticide last October has been sentenced to 42 months in prison by the the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture.

Toshiki Abe, 49, a former plant worker at the Oizumi plant of Maruha Nichiro Holdings subsidiary Aqlifoods Co, was convicted of lacing the food products.

Abe, who worked at the plant for eight years, was arrested in January after going absent without permission on Jan 14. He was taken into custody in Saitama Prefecture.

The court heard that Abe, who worked on the pizza line at the factory, brought the pesticide malathion into the plant and used it to taint frozen food products such as pizzas and croquettes, four times between Oct 3 and Oct 7, Fuji TV reported.

Abe would often complain about low wages at the plant, his co-workers said.

In all, nine frozen food products were tainted. Health officials said that 2,843 people in all prefectures reported mild symptoms of vomiting, cramps and diarrhea, after eating the tainted products.

Aqlifoods received the first of a series of complaints on Nov 13, with a customer saying its frozen pizza smelled like machine oil.

But the firm did not announce a product recall until Dec 29, after tests found traces of malathion.

Aqlifoods recalled 6.4 million potentially tainted products. None of the products in question had been shipped overseas, the company said.

The firm has since been absorbed by its parent company.

Japan Today

Feature image: Wikipedia – Skiddie2003