Toshiki Abe, a 49-year-old factory worker, was arrested Saturday for his alleged involvement in the food poisoning scandal that caused Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc. to recall a huge number of frozen food products. A large batch of these products were found to be laced with pesticide and has possibly affected the health of more than 2,800 people all across Japan.
Abe, according to information from the ensuing police investigation, reportedly poisoned food products four times between last Oct. 3 and Oct. 7 at Aqlifoods Co.’s factory in the town of Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture. Abe has denied these allegations and told the police that he does not recall putting pesticide into the factory food processing line. Earlier, just after the recall was made, the company’s own investigation found traces of malathion, an industrial pesticide, in several of the food products. This matches with the same traces of malathion found from an object belonging to Abe at the factory. Abe, employed at the factory as a contract worker, had also disappeared after working his shift until late afternoon on Jan. 14. At that point, his family subsequently filing a missing person’s report with the authorities. Police subsequently found Abe and took him into custody at a parking lot in Satte in the neighboring prefecture of Saitama on Friday night.
At a news conference in Tokyo after the arrest of the suspect, Maruha Nichiro’s president Toshio Kushiro declared that he will resign from his post by end of March to take responsibility for the incident. “I apologize for the trouble we’ve caused our customers and those concerned,” Kushiro said. In addition to Kushiro’s resignation, it was revealed that Aqlifoods’ President Yutaka Tanabe will also step down at the end of March over the case. As of today, over 2,800 people have reported getting sick possibly due to the poisoning, this according to data from the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.