A statement released earlier today (19 September) by the Skylark Co pointed to the probability that a recent bout of food poisoning that affected customers at the family restaurant chain originated in products processed at a 100%-owned subsidiary of Nippon Meat Packers Inc.

At the beginning of September, six children contracted E-coli bacteria and fell ill after eating the "bite size beef steak," five of them suffering diarrhoea and stomachaches. The dish was then removed from all 110 restaurants in Skylark's "Yumean" chain on 12 September.

Nihon Pure Food Shokuzai controls the plant in Aomori, northern Japan, where Skylark believes the processed beef became contaminated. The restaurant group said that while poisoning occurred at three different sites, the six E-coli victims were all infected with the same deoxyribonucleic acid. A spokesman for Nippon Meat stressed however that the Aomori plant had undergone a thorough food sanitation inspection a few weeks ago, and food safety authorities had found no problems.

After local news reported the food poisoning incidents, Skylark shares fell by 12.5% on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, but a spokesman from the company said that as yet the impact of the illnesses on the overall earnings had not been calculated.