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article imageContaminated food latest woes as Japan’s radiation spreads

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 19, 2011 in Politics
Tokyo - Japanese officials have announced that radiation contamination has entered its food chain, with reports of milk and lettuce in the region of the troubled Daiichi nuclear facility near Fukushima exceeding levels allowed by the government.
Overwhelmed with the 9.0 Tohoku-Taiheiyou-Oki Earthquake, its accompanying tsunami, cold and snowy conditions, and a nuclear facility wavering on the edge of meltdown, the citizens of Japan are now faced with reports of radiation contaminating milk and lettuce.
Damaged milk has been found 20 miles from the nuclear plant and the spinach was located between 50 miles and 65 miles south of the facility, bringing into question earlier government reports that winds were carrying the radiation out over the Pacific ocean. Weather forecasts predict a wind change, with the possibility of radiation moving toward Tokyo.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters in Tokyo the milk and lettuce “pose no immediate health risk” while additional testing is being conducted on other food products, the Associated Press reports. If those tests show further contamination, food shipments from the area will be stopped.
“It’s not like if you ate it right away you would be harmed. It would not be good to continue to eat it for some time,” Edano added, according to the AP.
Hidehiko Nishiyama, with Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said backup power systems at the facility were incorrectly protected. “I cannot say whether it was a human error, but we should examine the case closely,” he said, the AP notes.
Bloomberg Businessweek reports workers at the Daiichi plant have reconnected a power cable at one of the reactors and will begin attempts at restoring power to the No. 2 reactor’s cooling system. Officials report the cable will also provide power to the No. 1 reactor.
“This is an important step,”, the NISA’ Nishiyama said, Bloomberg reports.
New reports reveal Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) had considered the option of using seawater to cool one of the six reactors at Daiichi as early as the morning after the tsunami, but because of concerns over long-term damage the seawater might cause at the facility, waited to do so until ordered by the prime minister later that evening.
A former executive with TEPCO said the company “hesitated because it tried to protect its assets,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Akira Omoto, a member of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and former TEPCO executive, added that “it’s understandable because injecting seawater into the fuel vessel renders it unusable.”
Hiro Hasegawa, a TEPCO spokesman, said the company “taking the safety of the whole plant into consideration, was trying to judge the appropriate timing to use seawater,” WSJ notes.
One government official stated: “This disaster is 60% man-made. They failed in their initial response. It's like Tepco dropped and lost a 100 yen coin while trying to pick up a 10 yen coin,” according to WSJ.
In California, officials there have begun testing milk produced by grass-fed cows for radiation contamination. The state is the largest producer of milk in the US. Peggy Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the International Dairy Foods Association, based in Washington D.C., said the US dairy industry “continues to work closely with federal and state government agencies to ensure a safe milk supply,” the Contra Costa Times reports.
More about Food chain, contaminated milk, contaminated lettuce, radiation contamination, fukushima nuclear plant
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