The operator of a "yakiniku" barbecue restaurant chain involved in a spate of food poisoning deaths believed it did not need to trim raw beef before serving it, contrary to common practice, due to information contained in an e-mail from its supplier, its executive said, reports the Mainichi Daily News.

Police in Japan are investigating the string of food poisoning cases, including the deaths of four people who are at Food Forus Co.'s Yakiniku-zakaya Ebisu outlets. The May 2009 e-mail from the Tokyo-based supplier Yamatoya Shoten led Foods Forus to believe the raw meat it received had already been trimmed, the official, who asked not to be named, told Kyodo News. The supplier has told authorities that the meat was not provided to be consumed raw.

Under hygiene standards issued in 1998 on meat to be consumed raw, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare requires that surface areas of raw meat, which can easily be contaminated with bacteria, are trimmed both by distributors and at restaurants to prevent food poisoning.

The e-mail was sent before the distributor began supplying raw meat to Foods Forus, saying the yield, or the edible portion, of the meat to be shipped was "about 100 percent, without any loss," and also that it would send samples for use in raw beef dishes.

"Based on the explanation on the yield, we judged that the raw meat had already been trimmed, and was ready to be processed (for consumption)," the executive said.

Source:  Mainichi Daily News