Maruha chief issues apology for tainted food

Kyodo

Maruha Nichiro Holdings Inc. President Toshio Kushiro apologized Thursday for a food poisoning case involving one of its subsidiaries in which a factory worker has been arrested on suspicion of lacing frozen food products with pesticide.

“I apologize for the huge anxiety and annoyance caused to consumers,” Kushiro said at an extraordinary general shareholders’ meeting in Tokyo.

Kushiro and Yutaka Tanabe, president of the subsidiary Aqlifoods Co., will resign at the end of March to take responsibility for the incident, while Maruha Nichiro will examine its food safety administration by setting up a third-party panel to compile preventive measures.

The suspect, contract worker Toshiki Abe, 49, has admitted to poisoning the food items, according to the police, saying he was dissatisfied with the way he had been treated at work.

At the shareholders’ meeting, a 68-year-old man from Nagoya said, “I want to know how the company will improve its labor conditions,” while a 57-year-old man from Saitama Prefecture said, “I expect the company to ensure food security properly.”

Maruha Nichiro called the meeting to endorse a merger plan between the parent company and its five operating subsidiaries to form a new firm April 1.

Abe was arrested Saturday on suspicion of poisoning the products made at the Aqlifoods factory in Oizumi, Gunma Prefecture, with malathion on four occasions between last Oct. 3 and Oct 7.

More than 2,800 people have reported falling ill after eating the products, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.

Aqlifoods issued a voluntary recall notice last month covering 6.4 million packs of the products, including frozen pizzas and croquettes, sold in supermarkets.