News From : DagangHalal.com (26 Apr 2009)
Japanese officials have apologised to the UAE for their “ignorance” of Islam after serving non-halal beef at a Dubai reception last November, despite having been warned not to.
The delegation from the Saga prefecture on the Japanese island of Kyushu admitted carrying the meat in luggage and bypassing Japanese food inspectors as well as Dubai Customs, despite being told it was unfit for consumption by UAE Muslim standards because it had been processed at a plant also used to treat pork.
The beef was subsequently served at a consulate function attended by local businessmen and officials.
Saga beef is a delicacy in Japan, derived from prized cattle raised on Kyushu. The thinly-sliced meat is famous for its rich flavour and heavy marbling, and can sell for Dh2,000 (US$540) a kilogram, according to local sushi chefs.
“We sincerely apologised from the bottom of our heart for your great trouble… by providing non-halal Saga beef to the reception honoured by the Japanese Consulate General in Dubai,” said a joint statement issued last month by the Saga Prefectural Government and the Islamic Centre-Japan in Tokyo.
“It was totally our fault to generate this problem by our ignorance although it was innocent.”
The health consultant for the UAE’s General Secretariat of Municipalities, Abdulla Abu Rwaidah, said he had accepted the apology, and that “if something happened, then it was by mistake”.
Keen to promote their gourmet treat in Dubai, the Saga officials packed what some reports said was 15kg of meat in their luggage and flew with it to Dubai for the Nov 26 function at the consulate.
According to the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper, Dubai government officials and local businessmen were among more than 370 people at the reception, but it was not known whether any of them had eaten the Saga beef.
Salimur Khan, the executive director of the Islamic Centre-Japan, said the Saga officials had been warned against taking the meat.
He had met the UAE’s National Committee for Food Safety in October to tour farms in Saga and appraise them according to Muslim slaughter standards.
A month later, he said, the UAE had pronounced Saga’s slaughterhouse unfit because of the pork connection. “At that time, we informed Saga people they cannot export the beef until the UAE Government authorises the slaughterhouse,” Mr Khan said.
A spokesman for Dubai Customs confirmed that travellers are allowed to bring in non-halal meat for personal use.
The controversy has been widely reported in Japan, not least because the Saga officials may have also violated the Japanese Cattle Infectious Disease Prevention Law, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison or a fine of one million yen (Dh38,000).