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The Tokyo District Court on Wednesday dismissed a 2.2 billion yen suit against the government filed by farmers of “kaiware” daikon sprouts.

The farmers had demanded compensation for economic losses allegedly caused by government statements regarding the cause of an outbreak of food poisoning in 1996.

The plaintiffs, comprising the Nihon Kaiware Kyokai (Japan Radish Sprout Association) and 19 producers of white radish sprouts across the country, claimed they suffered a sharp drop in shipments following government announcements that kaiware daikon sprouts were the probable source of an E. coli epidemic that struck Japan that summer.

In handing down the ruling, presiding Judge Junji Maeda said that in order to prevent a recurrence of the food poisoning outbreak, it was necessary for the government to publicize its probable source.

The outbreak occurred in July 1996 among schoolchildren who ate school lunches in the city of Sakai, Osaka Prefecture. The Sakai Municipal Government halted the delivery of school lunches immediately after the incident.

By January 1997, however, the outbreak had claimed the lives of three schoolchildren and affected about 9,000 other schoolchildren and residents.

The former Health and Welfare Ministry announced on three occasions that kaiware daikon sprouts were suspected of being the source of the food-poisoning.

The plaintiffs claimed the government’s statements were scientifically groundless and dealt their trade a serious blow.

They said some producers have since fallen into financial difficulties.

In response, the government argued that the announcements were made on the basis of sufficient research and were reasonable.

In a related ruling, the Osaka District Court in September 1999 ordered the city of Sakai to pay some 45 million yen in compensation to the parents of a girl who died from food poisoning after eating a contaminated school lunch in the summer of 1996.

The court determined that the cause of the contamination was a cold noodle dish garnished with white radish sprouts.

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