HYOGO (TR) – Hyogo Prefectural Police last month arrested the former president of a chain of butcher shops based in Kobe City that is suspected of mislabeling tons of meat over several years, reports the Sankei Shimbun (July 28).
Koichi Kaizaki, 61, is the former president of Kobe Sakaeya Co. Between the summer of 2017 and the following fall, he allegedly worked with employees within four of the chain’s outlets, including Yakiniku Rokko in Motomachi, to falsely label about 104 kilograms of beef as high-end wagyu.
On July 28, police accused Kaizaki of violating the Unfair Competition Prevention Law. “I don’t know [about the matter] because I left it to my subordinates,” the suspect was quoted by police in denying the allegations.
Police said that the outlet collected about 360,000 yen via sales of the mislabeled meat from 24 customers.
Three tons of pork
Kobe Sakaeya, which is today known as Kobe Musashi Foods Co., operates seven butcher shops in Hyogo.
The matter emerged last August, when the operating company for the chain announced that a total of 3.7 tons of beef handled over the past three years had likely been falsely labeled as wagyu.
After a criminal complaint was lodged against Kobe Sakaeya in November, police searched locations connected to the company the following month.
Kobe Sakaeya was not just mislabeling beef. Police also suspect that the company mislabeled 3 tons of pork over a three-year period ending in March of last year. A criminal complaint for that matter was made in February.
“Consumers do not understand what meat is supposed to taste like”
A former employee told TBS News (July 28) that Kobe Sakaeya carried out the scam by using the same identification number for a particular cut of wagyu for hundreds of kilograms of conventional beef.
“Consumers do not understand what meat is supposed to taste like,” Kaizaki told another former employee.
“At first I just followed the instructions without questioning anything,” the second former employee said. “But later I thought there was a problem.”
A third former employee told the network that Kaizaki made the purchases of the beef at the factories with only a few people around. “The employees had [nothing] to do [with it],” the employee said.
At one point, one of the former employees approached Kaizaki and requested that he stop mislabeling the meat. “It’s fine,” he told the employee. “If something [happens], I’ll speak to the prefectural government as a mediator. So stop talking about it.”
When a reporter for TBS News located Kaizaki in February, he declined to comment on allegations of false labeling. He also refused to send a message to his former customers.