July 22, 2011

Japan to purchase contaminated beef



The Japanese authority will purchase all beef contaminated with radioactive cesium that surpasses the allowable limit, and destroy them, according to a senior farm ministry official on Thursday (Jul 21).


Nobutaka Tsutsui, senior vice minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said the ministry is considering expanding the inspections currently imposed on all cattle shipped from Fukushima Prefecture to those from other prefectures.


''We are considering how much we can broaden the inspections on all the cattle and farms from outside Fukushima Prefecture,'' he said.


''We must prevent cesium-contaminated beef from going into circulation in the market,'' he added.


Radioactive cesium in excess of the government-set limit has so far been detected in 29 cows, according to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. The blanket purchase programme will cover beef from those cows as well as beef found through the expanded inspection to contain radioactive cesium above the allowable limit.


The latest move came as beef suspected of being contaminated with the isotope was found to have reached Tottori Prefecture, leaving just one prefecture in the country unaffected by the growing beef scare.


The Tottori government said a farm in the prefecture bought rice straw prepared in Miyagi Prefecture, which borders Fukushima Prefecture, home to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and that most of its 200-300 bovine animals that had possibly eaten it were marketed within Tottori between April and July.


The contamination surfaced earlier this month when elevated levels of radioactive cesium were found in beef from cattle shipped from a farm in Minamisoma, a city near the nuclear power plant.


The cattle had been fed rice straw that had been kept outdoors even after massive amounts of radioactive materials were released from the tsunami-struck nuclear power complex in March.


Rice straw containing radioactive cesium at levels above the government-set limit has been found not just in Fukushima Prefecture but also in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.


More than 1,300 bovine animals suspected of being fed contaminated rice straw have been shipped from 10 prefectures, including Akita, Gunma and Shizuoka, reaching all but Okinawa Prefecture.


The farm ministry has urged farms not to feed their livestock rice straw that had been kept outdoors after the nuclear disaster.


The plan to purchase all contaminated beef could be complicated by the fact that the government has not bought vegetables and fishery products containing radioactive substances above the allowable limits.

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