The Morinaga Milk arsenic poisoning incident occurred in 1955 in Japan and is believed to have resulted in the deaths of over 100 infants. The incident occurred when arsenic was inadvertently added to dried milk via the use of an industrial grade monosodium phosphate additive. This incident also led to negative health effects for thousands of other infants and individuals, which has had lingering health effects.
From June 1955, certain infants in western Japan came down with a strange sickness that was characterized by diarrhea or constipation, vomiting, a swollen abdomen, and a darkening of skin color. All of the infants shared the same characteristic: they were bottle-fed powdered milk, which was eventually discovered to be the Morinaga Milk brand. News coverage of the rash of infants suffering and dying from the illness did not initially mention Morinaga Milk and one news reporter claimed that they were discreetly told to stop feeding their infant Morinaga Milk brand powdered milk after the child fell ill. The company was not named until August of that year.
According to William R. Cullen, Morinaga Milk showed little interest over studies of the surviving affected infants, which resulted in some boycotting the company's products during the 1960s. The company was brought to trial; however the Tokushima District Court found them not guilty as well as denying any recompense for the survivors. This decision was subjected to a review by an appellate court in Takamatsu high court, which resulted in the not guilty verdict being reversed on March 31, 1966. After a rejected final appeal three years later, the Tokushima District Court found the Morinaga Milk's head of factory production guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison.
Long term consequences
Since the poisoning multiple studies have been done on the people who survived the milk poisoning incident. Many have reported that they still suffered chronic health problems and studies have also reported "substantially higher rates of sensory deficits and mental retardation in adolescent survivors of the Morinaga poisonings". A study of them in 2006 showed that many of them still suffered chronic health problems. Arsenic is a neurotoxin, so a disproportionate amount of them had developmental delays, epilepsy, and lower IQ scores. They were also below average height. During the civil suit process, the committee selected to make a ruling against the Morinaga company decided that the aftereffects of the victims were not a product of arsenic poisoning. Instead, they insisted that they were due to some previous illness. The outcome of this was that parents were forced to accept their babies’ misfortune as if it was some kind of natural disaster and take responsibility for ongoing treatment. The committee intentionally tricked the public into believing that the aftereffects were the result of an unfortunate natural disaster rather than a perpetrated crime. In April 1974, the Hikari Foundation was established in order to help the Morinaga poisoning victims. By the end of March 1983, there were 13,396 victims of the Morinaga milk poisonings, and 6,389 of these were in communication with the Hikari Foundation. The work of the Foundation centred mostly on the development of the victims' independence as well as on creating social conditions for that development. The members of the Foundation were mostly parents that had been involved with the protection association.
- 1858 Bradford sweets poisoning
- 1900 English beer poisoning
- Toxic oil syndrome
- 1985 diethylene glycol wine scandal
- 2008 Chinese milk poisoning
- Dakeishi M, Murata K, Grandjean P (October 2006). "Long-term consequences of arsenic poisoning during infancy due to contaminated milk powder". Environmental Health. 5: 31. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-5-31. PMC 1635412. PMID 17076881.
- "VI. Establishment of the Hikari foundation". archive.unu.edu. Retrieved 17 May 2017.
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- Cullen WR (2008-04-22). Is Arsenic an Aphrodisiac?: The Sociochemistry of an Element. Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 377. ISBN 978-1-84755-860-2.
- Inglis-Arkell E (October 2015). "The Effects Of Japan's 1955 Poison-Milk Coverup Persist To This Day". io9. Retrieved 8 January 2018.
- "The Morinaga Milk Arsenic Poisoning Incident: 50 Years On" (PDF). Volunteers in support of the complete implementation of a permanent control strategy.
- Yeates KO, Ris MD, Taylor HG, Pennington BF (2009-11-19). Pediatric Neuropsychology, Second Edition: Research, Theory, and Practice. Guilford Press. p. 248. ISBN 978-1-60623-466-2.