Vietnamese police have been asked to investigate the presence of Kobe beef in Vietnam, after agricultural authorities said they never licensed the delicacy.
Many "pho" and beefsteak shops in Vietnam have been serving the Japanese beef for a long time, with each serving priced around US$30 -- at least 10 times more expensive than those made with local beef.
But most of the shops have withdrawn the dishes from their menus after Vietnamese news sources last week ran articles quoting officers saying the beef is either fake or illegal.
The beef was sold in Vietnam for VND4 million (US$190) per kilogram, 20 times more expensive than a kilo of other types of fine beef in Vietnam.
Japan's Animal Health Division of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries presented several documents showing the names of Vietnam agencies allowing it to export the beef to Vietnam.
But Hoang Van Nam, head of Vietnam's Animal Health Department, said those documents were fake. He suggested a smuggling ring involving a third country provided fake documents for the product.
Nguyen Dac Long, deputy head of Hanoi Market Management Department, also said that all the restaurants and importers selling Kobe beef in the city denied selling the product when they were checked.
Japan's and Vietnam's Animal Health Departments a month ago started negotiations for official import of Kobe beef to Vietnam.
Kobe beef comes from the black Tajima-ushi breed of WagyÅ« cattle, raised according to strict tradition in HyÅgo Prefecture, whose capital is Kobe.
The cows live in luxurious conditions, being fed with fine foods such as young corn, buckwheat and beer instead of water.
They are cleaned with hot baths, entertained with symphony masterpieces by Mozart and Chopin, and massaged every day with quality sake. Thus, the meat is renowned for its flavor, tenderness, and fatty, well-marbled texture.