• Kyodo

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Meatpackers and restaurateurs are concerned that tougher regulations on raw meat taking effect Saturday will make it impossible to serve some popular dishes.

The health ministry is stiffening the regulations because four people died of food poisoning earlier this year after eating raw beef at Yakiniku-zakaya Ebisu restaurants run by Foods Forus Co.

The new rules set by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry require meatpackers to heat a section of raw meat at least 1 cm deep from the surface at 60 degrees for two minutes or more to sterilize it before shipping to restaurants. The restaurants will then trim the meat surface before preparing dishes.

Dishes that are subject to the rules are Korean “yukhye” raw beef, beef sashimi, beef “tataki” (pounded beef) and steak tartar.

Those accused of serious regulatory violations may be forced to suspend business or face imprisonment of up to two years or a ¥2 million fine.

Because meat packing facilities have to be inspected by authorities to ensure their ability to follow the new regulations, many people are worried that no one will be able to meet the Oct. 1 deadline when the rules kick in.

“If supply of (properly processed meat) becomes unavailable, no restaurants will be able to serve yukhye in October,” said Takatsugu Nakai, a senior official of an industry body for “yakiniku” (barbecued meat) restaurants.

Prices under the new system are adding to the fears in the food service industry. 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 percent of the original size, down from the current 80 percent.