Cesium in beef, straw prompts closer scrutiny
The government’s nuclear disaster task force said Friday that shipments of beef cattle from Fukushima Prefecture will be suspended, amid concern that cows from there may be contaminated with radioactive cesium.
The Fukushima Prefectural Government has already begun inspecting all local beef cattle farms and requested they voluntarily refrain from shipping cows until at least next Monday when the inspections are to be concluded.
The central government reached its own decision regarding beef cattle shipments from Fukushima after consulting with prefectural authorities, government sources said.
Concern over tainted meat reaching the market was heightened Friday by a Tokyo Metropolitan Government announcement that it detected radioactive cesium at levels exceeding the safety limit in beef from cattle transported from a farm in Asakawa, Fukushima Prefecture, to a slaughterhouse in Sendai.
Levels of radioactive cesium reached 650 becquerels per kg, exceeding the government-set limit of 500 becquerels per kg.
That beef was withheld by meat processors in Tokyo and did not reach consumers, according to the metropolitan government.
A farm near the town of Asakawa, 70 km from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, shipped 42 cows that may have eaten straw contaminated with radioactive cesium to meat processors in Tokyo, Sendai, Chiba Prefecture and Yokohama.
Local governments in those areas are now investigating where the meat was later shipped, officials said.
Of the 42 cows shipped, 10 were slaughtered in Sendai, and their meat distributed to wholesalers and agents in the city as well as Iwate and Yamagata prefectures and Tokyo, according to the Sendai Municipal Government.
Five of the cows were transported to Chiba Prefecture, and their meat distributed through a Tokyo facility after processing.
Another 14 cows were shipped to Yokohama and their meat sold to eight agents in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture.
The meat of two of those cows remains, and was found to have radioactive cesium levels below the government-fixed limit, the Yokohama Municipal Government said Friday.
Tainted beef was also shipped to western regions.
The Kagawa Prefectural Government said Friday evening that a 124 kg portion of beef from Asakawa cows was sold at five meet shops in Kagawa and Ehime prefectures.
In a related development, Miyagi Prefecture said Friday it detected radioactive cesium in straw for beef cattle at three farms, at levels up to 2.7 times the state-set safety limit.
Two of the farms had not fed the straw to cows, while the third had — but had not shipped any cows to market, according to the prefectural government.
In Fukushima Prefecture, the straw was found to contain up to 97,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kg.
The farm ministry said it will launch an emergency survey of rice straw covering rice and cattle farms in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba, Gunma and Saitama prefectures.