The Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) has stiffened regulations because four people died of food poisoning earlier this year after eating raw beef at the Food Forus company's Yakiniku-zakaya Ebisu restaurant chain.
Japan meatpackers and restaurateurs are concerned that tougher regulations on raw meat will make it impossible to serve some popular dishes.
MHLW's new rules require meatpackers to heat a section of raw meat at least 1 centimeter deep from the surface at 60°C for two minutes or more to sterilize it before shipping to restaurants. The eateries will then trim the meat surface before preparing dishes. Dishes subject to the rules are "yukke" (Korean-style tartar steak with a raw egg), beef sashimi, beef "tataki" (pounded beef) and tartar steak. Those accused of serious regulatory violations may be forced to suspend business or face imprisonment of up to two years or a fine of Y2 mill.
Under previous regulations, restaurants were allowed to serve raw beef to customers by just trimming the surface of the meat. However, even if these rules were violated, no one was punished.
Prices under the new system are among the food industry's fears about the new rule's effects. As larger sections of raw meat will be trimmed under the new rules, the portions of meat that can be served will reportedly shrink to 30 to 40% of the original size, down from 80%.
The Japanese government will determine whether the new standards are being observed by the end of the year. It also plans to revise the regulations by October 1 next year to oblige local governments to issue permits to restaurants serving raw meat.
Source: The Japan Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW)