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article imageRadioactive cesium found in meat sold in Japan

By Kim I. Hartman     Jul 14, 2011 in World
Fukushima - Officials in Japan have announced that meat from at least six cows raised in the Fukushima Prefecture was shipped to stores and markets where it was sold to customers who were unaware it was contaminated with high levels of radioactive cesium.
CNN is reporting the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said the discovery came after another 11 cows that were slaughtered from the same farm were tested and found to have cesium levels five to seven times the provisional limits set by the Japanese government.
The report said the questionable meat had "made its way to consumers and most likely has been ingested," by unsuspecting Japanese customers.
"If we were to eat the meat everyday, then it would probably be dangerous. But if it is consumed only in small portions, I don't think it would have any long-lasting effects on the human body," said Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of consumer affairs and food-safety.
According to Japan Today, almost 1,500 kilograms of the beef was distributed to a dozen prefectures and sold to dealers in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Osak, Ehime, Yokote and Hyogo Prefectures.
The source of the contamination is believed to be hay and straw that has been growing and stored outdoors, just outside the no-go zone surrounding the crippled nuclear plant at Fukushima Daiichi. Reportedly the hay, which continues to be exposed to high levels of radiation, has been fed to the cows that were shipped to market, according to Yutaka Kashimura, Fukushima Prefecture's officer in charge of the livestock division.
The Wall Street Journal reports the levels of radioactive cesium were "too low to create health problems in people who ate just one or two servings." The cattle had all passed 'external tests' prior to being shipped outside of the Fukushima Prefecture. How this will impact future sales of meat in Japan is unknown as residents already face concerns of contamination of other food sources, including fruits, vegetables, tea, fish and seafood.
Cattle farmers are expressing concern that the discovery may put them out of business, according to NHK World.
Consumption of large quantities of the radioactive cesium increases the risk of cancer, said the WSJ. Officials have warned farmers not to feed cattle any food that has been stored outside since the nuclear disaster occurred at the Fukushima power plant.
Government officials are investigating the situation and attempting to determine exactly where the meat, most of which is presently unaccounted for, was distributed.
The Ottawa Citizen said, "the Fukushima government plans to begin processing the approximately 33,000 cows shipped yearly from the 260 farms within the prefecture, so on-site testing can be conducted before it is sold to markets outside the evacuation area."
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