Chain got complaints of rotten beef before poisonings

Kyodo

The barbecue chain tainted by a fatal food poisoning scandal last year was getting complaints about rotten meat before the scandal even broke, investigative sources said.

They also found that employees at the Yakinikuzakaya Ebisu chain had detected the smell of decaying meat and urged their bosses to return it to the supplier, meaning the executives at Foods Forus Co., which runs the “yakuniku” joints, were likely well aware of the situation, the sources said Saturday.

The restaurant chain closed down in July after the food poisonings came to light in April and is undergoing liquidation.

The victims are demanding about ¥690 billion in damages from Food Forus, but their chances for compensation are unclear.

The food poisonings, which focused on raw beef served up at six of the yakiniku outlets in Kanagawa, Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures, sickened dozens of customers, including a 6-year-old boy who died and about 180 people who came down with diarrhea and vomiting.

Tests detected the O-111 strain of E. coli bacteria in many of the victims, and the police are still probing the chain on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.

Food Forus and its meat supplier are blaming each other for failing to trim the beef to remove surface bacteria, a standard process in the industry that is deemed essential by the health ministry when meat is to be consumed raw.