Butcher arrested in Fukushima beef ploy

Kyodo

The former head of a butcher shop in the city of Osaka was arrested Monday for allegedly mislabeling beef from Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures, which were contaminated most by fallout from the nuclear crisis.

Hiroshi Kutsukake is suspected of selling dozens of mislabeled packages of beef products from the disaster-hit region at a supermarket outlet in Konohana Ward in February. The products were labeled as originating from other prefectures, such as Kagoshima and Hokkaido. This violates a provision against misleading acts about product origins under the law banning unfair competition.

“I did it alone,” Kutsukake, 62, was quoted as telling investigators. “It was hard to sell by saying it was Fukushima-grown.”

The butcher shop was operated by a now-shut meat packer in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture.

In April, the farm ministry’s Kinki regional bureau urged the meat packer to stop the alleged practice, citing violations of Japan Agricultural Standards.

Osaka police have searched the meat packing company.

After Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was crippled by the March 11 quake and tsunami last year, explosions ejected radioactive fallout across the northeast. Prices for beef from cattle raised in Fukushima and nearby areas then plunged amid public radiation concerns.

The butcher shop initially labeled beef from the region as “domestically produced,” but began specifying production areas at the request of the supermarket, which damaged his sales.