Sun, Sep 19, 2010 - Page 2 News List

Buyer beware: Japanese meat is not on the menu

THE LATEST BEEFThe Consumers’ Foundation said that restaurants mislead consumers through using Japanese city names to describe items despite the ban on Japanese meat

Staff Writer, with CNA

Restaurants should not imply on their menus that any of their dishes are made with beef from Japan as this product is banned in Taiwan, the Department of Health (DOH) said.

The department was responding to the Consumers’ Foundation, which on Friday called on the government to pay closer attention to the problem of Taiwan’s restaurants misleading consumers by using the names of Japanese cities on their menus to describe their beef and pork dishes.

For example, the foundation said, the so-called “Kobe beef” and “Matsusaka pork” dishes that are quite popular in Taiwan definitely do not contain meat from Japan.

The department, however, said there was nothing wrong with the use of the term “Matsusaka pork” as it was created by local businesses to describe a cut of pork that has a perfect fat-to-meat ratio.

Kobe beef or “Matsusaka beef,” however, are not acceptable, the department said.

The importation of beef from Japan has been prohibited in Taiwan since 2001, when mad-cow disease appeared in that country.

Taiwan banned Japanese pork in April this year after the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease was reported among cloven-hoofed livestock in Japan.

Nonetheless, the label “Produced in Japan” is often a synonym for “high quality” among Taiwanese consumers, according to the non-profit Consumers’ Foundation.

As a result, Japanese products are often priced higher than those produced in Taiwan or imported from other countries, the foundation said in a statement.

Citing the results of an online survey it conducted early this month, the foundation said it found 15 bistros and restaurants that were using the “meat from Japan” tag for some of the dishes on their menus.

Some selections were advertised as “Matsusaka pork,” “Kobe beef” and even “Japanese beef” on the Chinese-language menus of the restaurants, the foundation said.

One of the eateries, the popular Gourmet teppanyaki and hot-pot restaurant in Taipei City, had an item listed as “Kobe beef” on its online menu, priced at NT$1,800, the foundation said.

When asked about the origin of the meat in the dish, the restaurant said it was imported either from the US or Australia, the foundation said.

Some other restaurants that were advertising “Japanese beef” also admitted that the meat was from Australia, it added.

Such misleading advertising is prohibited under the Fair Trade Act (公平交易法) and if the dishes indeed contained Japanese beef, then the meat was smuggled into the country, the foundation said.

It urged food businesses in Taiwan not to mislead consumers, but rather to clearly state on their menus that dishes carrying names such as “Japanese beef” are in fact made with beef from Australia.

The foundation also called on the Food and Drug Administration to establish regulations to prevent the abuse of special terms in food advertising.

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