A former worker at a frozen food factory in Japan will spend three years and six months in prison for injecting a pesticide last year into products made at a factory in Gunma Prefecture.
Judge Yoshiko Noguchi ruled that Toshiki Abe, the 49-year-old guilty of contaminating Aqli Foods Corp. products, “bears grave criminal responsibility as his motives were self-interested, extremely dangerous, reckless and malicious.”
Abe worked at the plant’s pizza production line on a contractual basis. He was a member of a four-person team that typically operated the crust section in which pizza dough was made and baked.
Prosecutors had demanded a prison sentence of four years and six months for the convicted criminal. Abe, who will not appeal the verdict, expressed regret for the offense, which he claimed resulted from frustration over working conditions at the factory, and his low salary.
According to the ruling, Abe tainted 22 frozen food products with the pesticide malathion between October 3 and November 5, 2013, severely damaging his employer’s business. Recalls of more than 6.3 million packages containing 90 different products distributed from two plants resulted from the scare he caused.
In March of this year, Yutaka Tanabe, president of Aqli Foods, a unit of Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc., resigned his position as a result of the food poisoning incident. While no fatalities resulted, as many as 3,000 persons may have been sickened by Abe’s actions and consumer confidence in frozen food was negatively affected for a lengthy period of time.