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Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011
Food poisoning cases haven't cut appetite for 'yakiniku' raw meat cuts
By JUN HONGO
Even the risk of fatal food poisoning isn't enough to stop some diehard customers of "yakiniku" grills from ordering raw meat dishes.
According to a report released Tuesday by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 59 of the 4,490 restaurants and meat suppliers inspected were providing raw beef cuts, including "yukke," to customers, despite new regulations imposed after the risky dish spread a fatal food-borne illness in May.
The metropolitan government also revealed that none of the 59 locations serving the shredded raw meat met the new food safety standards issued in October.
"We have ordered the facilities that do not meet the standards to stop providing the dishes, and all of them have discontinued providing raw meat at this point," the metropolitan government said.
Approximately 180 people were affected and five died after eating yukke in May at yakiniku restaurants in Kanagawa, Toyama and Fukui prefectures. The raw beef contained a type of colon bacilli that causes kidney dysfunction and intestinal bleeding.
In response, the health ministry beefed up its food safety standards for restaurants serving raw meat. Under the new rule, beef must be heated for at least two minutes in 60-degree water. Restaurants were also required to set up special sanitized work spaces to prevent bacterial infections.
But the meat industry has complained to the government that such regulations are unfeasible for many restaurants.
"The new standard was created without the opinion of the meat industry and ignores those of us who do the cooking. It is impossible to abide" by the rules, the All Japan Meat Industry Cooperative Associations said in a complaint to the health ministry last month.
While the crackdown in Tokyo has ostensibly stopped yakiniku restaurants from serving yukke, some claim the strict regulation has only led restaurants to serve the dish under the table.
"We will work with perseverance" to have a part of the food safety standard revised, the group said.
The metro government carried out inspections between Oct. 3 through Monday. Although violations of the new safety rule can result in a fine of ¥2 million or imprisonment of up to two years, the metropolitan government has only ordered the restaurants to stop providing raw meat.