Japan bans Fukushima cattle shipments over radiation fears


THE JAPANESE government has moved to contain a spreading scare over radiation-contaminated beef by banning all shipments of cattle from Fukushima prefecture, home to Tokyo Electric Power’s stricken nuclear power plant.

The decision comes amid growing concerns over the safety of Fukushima beef after it was found that beef from more than 500 cattle, which had been fed rice straw contaminated with high levels of radioactive caesium, had been shipped to stores throughout Japan.

Inspections by local authorities found that some of the beef contained radioactive caesium that was eight times the government-designated limit, while Fukushima officials said yesterday they detected levels in straw used at some farms that exceeded limits.

The contaminated beef is the latest health scare to emerge from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. It underscores the lasting impact of the nuclear incident not only on Fukushima residents but on consumers throughout Japan even as the government announced yesterday that the first step towards stabilising the plant had been achieved and that the level of radiation at the plant had dropped significantly.

The damaged plant released radioactive substances into the atmosphere and surrounding waters in the aftermath of Japan’s worst nuclear accident, leading the government to ban shipments from the area of a range of vegetables, including cabbage, spinach and cauliflower. Exports of Japanese food products suffered from widespread concerns about radiation contamination.

Fukushima produces just under 3 per cent of the cattle raised for consumption in Japan. The beef is not as widely known as Kobe or Miyazaki beef. However, the ban will come as a further blow to farmers who have not been able to sell their produce because of contamination concerns. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011)