In Japan, a 70-year-old woman died from E.coli after she dined at a barbecue chain restaurant with a family member who died of similar causes the previous day.
Two of the four who died were six-year-old boys, and over 70 have been stricken with food poisoning after E.coli was detected in a Korean-style steak tartare dish called yukhoe served at the restaurant chain’s outlets.
The Wall Street Journal said strains of the pathogen including O-111 and O-157 E.coli were detected among hospitalized patients, at least 20 of whom are considered to be in critical condition.
While Japanese restaurants are required to test raw meat prior to serving, the requirement isn’t enforceable. Japan’s so-called “Ministry” has now called on — after the fact — prefectural governments to launch emergency checks on restaurants serving raw meats to investigate whether eateries are up to code.
The president of Foods Forus, the managing company of the barbecue chain, said the company had not properly monitored the raw meat for contamination. “We were not strict enough (about food safety),”he said at a news conference on Monday.
According to local Japanese media reports, the barbecue chain had not conducted their own hygiene inspections on the meat for the last two years, claiming the meat distributor said the beef was safe to eat raw or cooked.
The Journal said business has been suspended at all of the company’s 20 barbecue restaurants in Japan, and the Tokyo-based wholesale Yamatoya Co. responsible for supplying the restaurants with the meat is also under investigation.
As with U.S. food regulatory agencies, Japanese government officials are checking these restaurants for violations after deadly contaminated food has been served to the public, not before.
Several years ago, 22 year-old Stephanie Smith, a dance instructor, was left paralyzed from the waist down by E. coli contaminated beef. Minnesota officials later traced the E. coli to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.
Tens of thousands of Americans are sickened each year by E. Coli infections, and most are caused by contaminated hamburger. In 2008, U.S. beef contamination led to the recall of beef from nearly 3,000 grocers in 41 states.
In the U.S., after a food establishment completes a recall, the record is added to the archives. At the end of 2010, there were 36 archived cases from the USDA Recall Archive List, totaling 783,323 pounds of contaminated beef, chicken and other food products.
Read related articles on ground beef recalls: