SAPPORO – A “yakiniku” barbecue restaurant in Hokkaido admitted Saturday that it has been passing off domestic beef produced in various areas as high-end Matsusaka beef and serving it to groups of Chinese tourists.
Barato Garden North Hill in the city of Ishikari started swindling Chinese tourists — whose tours were arranged by a travel agency in Hong Kong — four or five years ago, company President Shigeru Oka said.
The falsely labeled beef was not sold to Japanese customers.
Matsusaka beef is produced in Mie Prefecture and is considered one of Japan’s top brands of beef.
The Hokkaido Prefectural Government dispatched two officials to the restaurant Saturday afternoon to investigate the case, as falsifying a product’s origin is prohibited by law.
The restaurant used the mislabeled beef for sirloin and fillet steaks, each weighing about 180 grams and costing around ¥3,700, which the Chinese tourists could order as an optional dish. The tourists ordered several dozen “Matsusaka beef” steaks a month.
“Matsusaka beef is famous, so I thought the steaks would sell well. The quality of the beef served (to Chinese tourists) was almost comparable to that of Matsusaka beef, so I thought it would be all right,” Oka said.