State Ordered to Compensate Farmer Over O157 H7

State Ordered to Compensate Farmer over O-157
March 15, 2002
Associated Press

OSAKA(Kyodo) --  The Osaka District Court on Friday was cited as ordering thestate to pay 6 million yen in compensation to a radish farmer as governmentannouncements over a food-poisoning case damaged shipments of the product.

Thestory says that presiding Judge Hiroshi Muraoka ordered the state to paycompensation to Hajimu Minamino, a radish sprout farmer, saying, "Thegovernment announcements lacked balance and discredited the plaintiff."Minamino, 64, a farmer in Habikino in Osaka Prefecture, had filed a damages suitagainst the state, demanding about 52 million yen in compensation. Foodpoisoning caused by the 0-157 strain of E. coli bacteria, which affected morethan 10,000 people nationwide, was prevalent in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, in July1996 where 9,000 people were stricken and three children died.

Thestory says that the ruling was the first of its kind concerning the bacteria toadmit state responsibility.

Accordingto the ruling, the former Health and Welfare Ministry announced on severaloccasions in August and September of that year that white radish sprouts shippedfrom specific facilities could be the source of the O-157. The plaintiff claimedthat no O-157 bacteria was detected in radish sprout facilities or wells andthat surveys by the government and other related organizations were notscientific.

Thestate contended it had conducted sufficient surveys and it was necessity to makethe announcements in such a situation.

Theruling said the state is obliged to pay close attention to the expression andaccuracy of information it issues to the media and when the health minister orvarious experts hold press conferences.

Italso said the state gave the impression in this case that the incident wascaused by a particular radish sprout company, which was going beyond what thesurvey report said.

Theruling also questioned the government's decision to make public the intermediatereport on the surveys, saying it was questionable whether it was necessary torelease the report so soon.

TheNihon Kaiware Kyokai, an industry association, and 19 radish growers nationwidealso filed a joint damages suit in December 1996 against the state over itsannouncements.

Butthe Tokyo District Court dismissed the claim in May 2001, saying, "Therewas nothing irrational in the government surveys and the subsequentannouncements were also appropriate."