OSAKA--Police arrested the former manager of a meat shop in Osaka's Konohana Ward on May 28 on suspicion of falsely labeling Fukushima Prefecture beef as coming from Kagoshima Prefecture.
Osaka prefectural police said the former store manager was worried that consumers would not buy the meat because of concerns of possible radiation contamination from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“It would have been difficult to sell if it was labeled as from Fukushima," the former manager was quoted as saying.
The shop, located within a supermarket in Konohana Ward, was part of a network for a meat company with branches in Hyogo and Osaka prefectures.
According to sources close to the investigation, the former store manager falsely labeled dozens of packs of Fukushima beef in February, handling everything from procuring the beef to selling it at the outlet.
After last year's accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, concerns were raised about contamination of beef by radioactive cesium. Even after test results showed there were no health risks with the Fukushima beef, the negative publicity led to falling prices for beef from that prefecture.
Police suspect the former store manager bought cheap beef from Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures and falsified the labels when the beef did not sell well, sources said.
Under the law for proper labeling of agricultural products, the only requirement for labeling meat produced in Japan is a "domestic" label.
Investigative sources said the former store manager sold the beef with the domestic label until last August. However, supermarket officials subsequently asked that more specific information, such as prefecture of origin, be included in the label.
A government ban was imposed on beef shipments from the four prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Tochigi for three to five weeks last summer after radioactive cesium was found in the meat. The cattle had eaten rice straw contaminated with cesium. Even after that ban was lifted, consumers increasingly demanded that the prefecture of origin be included in labels for meat.
In response to questioning by police, the president of the meat company denied he was aware of the former store manager's actions.
The meat company was found to have sold about 1.4 tons of beef from Fukushima, Miyagi and Tochigi prefectures between September 2011 and February but falsely labeling the beef as being from Kagoshima.
Officials of the Kinki Regional Agricultural Administration Office in April issued instructions to the company to correct its labeling practices.
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