Neighborhood burger joint 8 oz. Burger Bar in South Beach offers seven-dollar "mini Kobe corn dogs," also from Snake River Farms. Contacted by New Times, owner Eric Fried said he would immediately update the menu to include the word American.

"I was not aware that I was misrepresenting the product," Fried explains. "It certainly wasn't our intent to mislead customers. It's common sense, because I'm not charging Japanese prices."

Of course, blame doesn't lie with the restaurants alone. Inspectors, who regularly visit them, have done little to fix the problem. Incredibly, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service became aware of the issue almost a decade ago, explains spokeswoman Bridgette Keefe. "Restaurants started using the claim Wagyu beef on their menus. It was brought to our attention by the Snake River Farms company."

Do you know the difference?
Newscom
Do you know the difference?

Location Info

Map

Prime One Twelve

112 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: South Beach

China Grill

404 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Music Venues

Region: South Beach

Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant

1201 Brickell Ave.
Miami, FL 33131

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Brickell

Plat Bleu

1685 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Bistro

Region: South Beach

Meat Market

915 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: South Beach

In 2005, the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service launched a Certified Kobe Beef Program. It set guidelines for the Japanese product's representation in the American marketplace. States use these standards to build their food regulations.

In Florida, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is charged with enforcing a 52-year-old statute, 509.292, which deals with misrepresenting food or food product. Violating this law is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 per violation. In extreme cases, prosecutors could charge restaurant owners with a second-degree misdemeanor, which could mean a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.

"The use of the term Kobe beef on a menu or special board is misrepresentation," says Jennifer Meale, DBPR's communications director. "Use of the terms Wagyu beef, American-style Kobe beef, Australian-style Kobe beef, and (country of origin) Kobe beef are acceptable, providing the operator can provide supporting invoices and product to match."

The department's 186 inspectors conduct twice-yearly reviews of each of the state's roughly 45,000 restaurants. Yet there hasn't been a single violation in the past three years for mislabeled Kobe beef, she explains. (By contrast, the department issued at least 33 violations in August alone for mislabeling of foods such as grouper, snapper, and crab.)

A keyword search for Kobe on leading online menu website menupages.com pulls up 40 restaurant menus out of 670 in the Miami/Miami Beach area. As many as 30 menus might be misusing the term Kobe, judging by the description and prices listed.

The reason no one has been fined or criminally charged, says Meale, is that there have been no complaints in regard to Kobe beef. "It is important that consumers partner with the department to make us aware of any possible cases of misrepresentation," she says. "We encourage consumers to file complaints by visiting myfloridalicense.com." (Her email is jennifer.meale@dbpr.state.fl.us.)

One restaurant that sells the real thing is Prime One Twelve. Its "Japanese A5 Kobe filet" goes for $30 per ounce, with a two-ounce minimum. The place can even present you with a certificate of authenticity. After logging on to a website, you can trace the biography of your dinner, including birth date, gender, parentage, breed, farm, and slaughterhouse.

"Our servers are always instructed to tell diners of the difference between the American Wagyu and Japanese Kobe," Chefetz reassures.

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