OSAKA — Osaka prosecutors questioned two former top officials of Snow Brand Milk Products Co. in connection with the massive outbreak of food poisoning last summer caused by milk products made at its Osaka plant, prosecution sources said Monday.
Questioned were former President Tetsuro Ishikawa, 67, and former Senior Managing Director Hiroshi Soma, 62, the sources said.
Ishikawa’s case was sent to the Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office in March on suspicion that he aggravated the gravity of the situation by delaying the announcement about the tainted products, resulting in injury.
Soma’s case was sent to prosecutors the same month on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
In late April, prosecutors searched the company’s Sapporo headquarters, Ishikawa’s house in Tokyo and other locations, confiscating materials related to internal communications of the company.
Based on the materials, prosecutors are proceeding with their investigation to substantiate their allegations that the top officials failed in performing their duties.
According to the prosecutors, Soma failed to take appropriate action after receiving seven complaints last June 28 over low-fat milk products made at the firm’s Osaka plant.
They claim Soma’s failure to take swift action allegedly led to the death of an 84-year-old woman who ingested a Snow Brand milk product the same day and to illness in about 140 other consumers.
The prosecutors also claim Ishikawa was responsible for the injury of about 60 people by failing to make a swift announcement about the food poisoning outbreak despite having been told of it at New Chitose Airport in Sapporo at about 10:30 a.m. on June 29.
In the massive food poisoning outbreak, about 13,000 people claimed they became ill after consuming the milk products, according to health authorities.
Police in March sent papers to prosecutors on eight Snow Brand officials, including Ishikawa and Soma, and on the company on suspicion of professional negligence in the outbreak.
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