FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) — More cows were confirmed Monday to have been shipped after being fed rice straw contaminated with radioactive cesium, with 411 from seven farms in Fukushima Prefecture and 24 from a farm in Niigata Prefecture.
Also on Monday, it was confirmed that 70 cows from four farms in Yamagata Prefecture were shipped within the prefecture and to Tokyo after being fed with rice straw suspected of being similarly contaminated. This brought the total number of cows suspected of radioactive contamination to 505 and that of their shipping destinations to eight prefectures.
On Monday, the prefectural government of Fukushima said seven more farms fed their beef cattle the rice straw, while the Niigata prefectural government said it has detected elevated levels of radioactive cesium from straw produced in Miyagi Prefecture and given to cattle at two farms, one of which has already shipped the 24 cows.
The straw at a farm in Motomiya, Fukushima Prefecture was found to contain the isotope measuring 690,000 becquerels per kilogram — far above allowable limits and the highest concentration found so far in the current turmoil.
The central government is considering ordering Fukushima Prefecture on Tuesday to suspend shipments of beef cattle from all parts of the prefecture on the basis of a law governing measures in nuclear disasters, according to government sources.
With the discovery of additional shipment sources of cows suspected of contamination, however, the government will likely be forced to take further steps to alleviate mounting concerns over contaminated beef.
The Niigata prefectural government has requested that farms in the prefecture do not use straw produced in Miyagi Prefecture.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry had so far disclosed identification numbers of cows shipped from farms from whose meat radioactive cesium had been found.
In order to speed up investigation of their distribution routes, however, the ministry disclosed on its website the identification number for 480 cows shipped from farms in Fukushima Prefecture, comprising the newly confirmed 411 cows plus the previously undisclosed 69 cows from four farms that were among 84 cows whose possible contamination were confirmed Saturday.
Two of the seven Fukushima Prefecture farms are located in Koriyama and the rest each in Nihonmatsu, Motomiya, Sukagawa, Shirakawa and the town of Aizubange.
Of the cows shipped from the Fukushima farms, 199 went to Tokyo, 192 to Hyogo Prefecture, nine to Gunma Prefecture, eight within Fukushima Prefecture, two to Tochigi Prefecture and one to Saitama Prefecture.
The straw found to contain the isotope measuring 690,000 becquerels per kg at the farm in Motomiya was gathered after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was crippled by the March 11 quake and tsunami.
The two farms in Sukagawa and Nihonmatsu purchased the straw from dealers in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures respectively.
Six of the seven farms said they were unaware of the government notice asking them not to feed their livestock with cattle feed stored outside. The remaining farm said it knew about the notice but did not see a problem because it purchased the straw from a dealer.
The Niigata prefectural government said it has detected elevated levels of radioactive cesium from straw stored at two farms in Nagaoka, measuring up to 20,600 becquerels per kg.
The two farms purchased the straw from a dealer in the cities of Tome and Kurihara in Miyagi Prefecture in April and May respectively. The 24 cows had been fed with straw purchased from the dealer in Tome.
According to a Kyodo News tally, the number of cows suspected of contamination came to 648, including 17 from Minamisoma, 42 from Asakawa, and 84 from Koriyama, all in Fukushima Prefecture. These shipments were confirmed by Sunday.
The number of shipment destinations came to at least 38 prefectures, including Okayama which was added to the list Monday.
The Fukushima prefectural government has asked municipal authorities to extend to Tuesday their voluntary suspension of shipping or transporting of their beef cattle.
The health ministry has said it would not affect health if consumers ate for several times the beef with levels of radioactive cesium greater than the government-set limit.