The Ministy’s reaction may be due to the outbreak of E. Coli-related food poisoning that occurred last April, killing five people, including a six-year-old boy, in Tohyama and Kanagawa prefectures. The afflicted ate Yukke (raw ground beef) . Almost 180 people suffered some kind of symptoms and the consumption of raw beef has been under scrutiny ever since.
As of July 1, “Rebasashi” (raw beef liver) will disappear from the menus of Yaki-Niku (BBQ) restaurants and Izakaiyas across Japan. Food safety experts have banned the dish in a preventative measure, worried about the levels of O-157 (a stain of E. Coli) discovered during testing. While customers rush to these establishments to get their last taste, some restaurants are having trouble keeping the meat in stock due to high demand.
Dipped in soy sauce and sesame oil, and served with garlic and chopped scallions, “Rebasashi” is a popular appetizer. The Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council, a division of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, is not swayed by the rich taste or gelatinous chew of the meat and worries that even small doses O-157 can cause serious illness.
The meat industry is strongly opposed to the law and worry that the banning of certain raw meats is a slippery slope that may lead to restrictions on other raw foods. Representatives claim the risk from eating raw beef liver can be reduced to to almost nothing by washing the meat with sodium hypochlorite and immediately freezing it afterward.
Under the new law, restaurants will be required to cook beef liver at 145.4 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 30 minutes, or at 167 Fahrenheit for at least one minute, before serving. Failure to do so could result in fines up to two million yen or two years in jail. While banned in restaurants, customers can still buy raw beef liver in supermarkets or butcher shops, but the meat now has a label warning that it must be cooked before consumption.
As a substitute, many restaurants are now offering “Konnyaku,” a beef liver flavored gelatin thas a similar texture even though it does not contain any liver.