TOKYO, June 12 (Kyodo) — The health ministry will ban restaurants from serving raw beef liver, a popular dish in Japan, from July 1 in the wake of a series of food poisoning incidents caused by raw beef, including fatal cases last year, a government panel agreed Tuesday.
The move is part of efforts to ensure the safety of beef by tightening food standards in bars and restaurants, including popular "yakiniku" barbeque restaurants.
Violators of the ban based on the Food Sanitation Act would face a maximum of two years in prison or a fine of up to 2 million yen, the panel of the Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said.
A food safety panel under the Cabinet Office endorsed the plan in April to prohibit the serving of raw beef liver as the O-157 strain of E. coli bacteria, which can cause food poisoning, was found in cow livers.
The number of food poisoning cases caused by raw beef liver is several times that of cases caused by raw beef meat, according to the health ministry.
In April last year, five people including a 6-year-old boy died and around 180 suffered from diarrhea and vomiting after eating raw beef dishes other than liver at a barbecue restaurant chain that failed to trim the beef to remove surface bacteria as required by standards at the time.