The government may expand the area that beef cattle shipments would be subject to suspension beyond Fukushima Prefecture, where it plans to soon impose the curbs, senior vice health minister Kohei Otsuka said Sunday.
“We are currently considering Fukushima Prefecture, but we may have to consider the need for further response by checking the distribution of contaminated straw,” Otsuka said on a TV program.
The government’s nuclear disaster task force is set to suspend shipments of beef cattle from Fukushima Prefecture, where the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reactors are spewing radiation, amid concern that some beef from a local farm was found to be contaminated with radioactive cesium after being fed with tainted straw. The government is expected to issue a suspension order on Tuesday.
Otsuka proposed setting up an inspection base for conducting urine exams on all cows and returning those that show levels of radioactive substances higher than the government-set limit to farms so they can be decontaminated by giving them safe feed.
Under this idea, which he qualified as his “personal opinion,” Otsuka said the central government would purchase noncontaminated straw from regions in western Japan and provide it to farms so they can feed it to the cows.
On Sunday, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and affected local governments continued looking into distribution channels of meat that could be contaminated with radioactive materials, as beef cattle shipped from other farms in Fukushima Prefecture were also found the previous day to have been fed contaminated straw.
According to a calculation by Kyodo News, 143 cows that were either exposed or suspected of having been exposed to radioactive cesium were already shipped to at least 37 prefectures.