Ra­dioac­tive meat makes it to Ja­panese ta­bles

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY CHRISTO­PHER JOHN­SON

TOKYO | A grow­ing scan­dal over ra­dioac­tive meat shipped and con­sumed across the coun­try is threat­en­ing to re­vive global con­cerns about the safety of food from Ja­pan.

The Tokyo city gov­ern­ment says about 960 pounds of beef from a farm about 18 miles from dam­aged nu­clear re­ac­tors in north­east Ja­pan were shipped to at least 12 prov­inces. The beef reached con­sumers in homes and restau­rants in Tokyo, Osaka and as far away as the north­ern is­land of Hokkaido.

The Fukushima pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment says the prob­lems be­gan with a farmer who failed to cover his straw or move it in­doors, as the agri­cul­tural min­istry or­dered on March 25 af­ter the ex­plo­sions at the Fukushima re­ac­tors re­leased ra­di­a­tion into the air.

Ra­dioac­tive ce­sium, spew­ing from the re­ac­tors, landed in the straw, which the farmer then fed to cat­tle.

The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment was set to sus­pend cat­tle ship­ments from Fukushima.

“We may need to in­crease our re­sponse by check­ing the dis­tri- bu­tion of con­tam­i­nated straw,” said Se­nior Vice Health Min­is­ter Ko­hei Ot­suka.

The ce­sium was de­tected July 8 at a slaugh­ter­house in of Tokyo in some of the 11 cows it re­ceived from the farm in Fukushima.

That meat wasn’t dis­trib­uted. But the slaugh­ter­house re­al­ized it had al­ready taken an­other six cows from the same farm in May and June and had shipped them to re­tail­ers and con­sumers, with­out know­ing about their con­tam­i­na­tion.

Gov­ern­ment in­spec­tors later found ce­sium lev­els 25 times the ac­cept­able limit in straw in the farmer’s rice field and five times legal lev­els in beef tracked to a Tokyo mar­ket and then dis­trib­uted around Ja­pan. Of­fi­cials tracked the beef us­ing codes on pack­ages.

The Asahi news­pa­per re- ported that large amounts of the meat were con­sumed in Tokyo and some of its west­ern sub­urbs.

Of­fi­cials also found meat with ex­ces­sive lev­els of ce­sium in re­frig­er­a­tors in homes in west­ern and north­ern Ja­pan.

Fukushima sup­plies about three per­cent of Ja­pan’s meat and much larger amounts of rice and veg­eta­bles. Ship­ments of liver and in­testines, which are pop­u­lar items across Asia, do not legally re­quire the same track­ing de­tails as meat, and lit­tle is known about the pos­si­ble con­tam­i­na­tion of these items.

Kyodo News quoted Charles Casto, deputy re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tor at the U.S. Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion, as say­ing that the tainted beef had been dis­cov­ered de­spite Tokyo’s as­sur­ances that food ex­ports were safe.

Mr. Casto was in Tokyo at­tend­ing a bi­lat­eral meet­ing on the Fukushima nu­clear cri­sis. Ja­panese of­fi­cials said Mr. Casto called on the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment to share in­for­ma­tion in a timely man­ner, since U.S. cit­i­zens also re­side in Ja­pan.

Susumu Harada, se­nior di­rec­tor at the U.S. Meat Ex­port Fed­er­a­tion’s Tokyo of­fice, said two weeks ago, “The gov­ern­ment’s mis­han­dling of the is­sue is deep­en­ing food-safety con­cerns.”

Fukushima gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials have told lo­cal re­porters that they plan to check all 260 ranches in the gov­ern­ment-des­ig­nated dan­ger zone around the re­ac­tors to find out if they gave con­tam­i­nated feed to their cat­tle. Fukushima farm­ers send about 33,000 cows to slaugh­ter­houses, mostly in Tokyo, for dis­tri­bu­tion na­tion­wide.

Of­fi­cials are es­pe­cially wor­ried about meat al­ready con­sumed in the past four months,and whether farm­ers will tell the truth about what they fed their cat­tle. Some farm­ers might have sold tainted cat­tle to avoid fi­nan­cial losses or be­cause they lacked the means to test for con­tam­i­na­tion on their own.

The Fukushima gov­ern­ment, al­ready short of staff and re­sources, will be hard-pressed to test ev­ery sin­gle an­i­mal and source of feed in the prov­ince.

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michi­hiko Kano promised on July 12 that his min­istry will help Fukushima of­fi­cials con­duct tests, but some ques­tion how they can screen ev­ery sin­gle item in Fukushima and other prov­inces.

KYODO NEWS VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS

Cat­tle are fed hay de­ter­mined to be safe at a farm in Mi­haru, Fukushima Pre­fec­ture. The Ja­panese gov­ern­ment is pre­par­ing to sus­pend cat­tle ship­ments from Fukushima amid a grow­ing tally of cows that were fed ra­dioac­tive rice straw.

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