Radiation-Tainted Beef Spreads Through Japan’s Markets

By HIROKO TABUCHI  |  The New York Times  |  Link to article

MINAMISOMA, Japan – Even after explosions rocked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Kuniaki Sato, who raises cattle here about 20 miles from the crippled complex, said he had received no clear warning from the government about the possible dangers of radiation to his herd.

So six weeks after the accident, on April 23, he shipped 12 of his prized cattle from his farm to market.

Now Japanese agricultural officials say meat from more than 500 cattle that were likely to have been contaminated with radioactive cesium has made its way to supermarkets and restaurants across Japan in recent weeks. Officials say the cattle ate hay that had been stored outside and exposed to radiation.

When a precautionary order to halt all farm shipments was lifted soon after the accident, area farmers took it as a go-ahead sign, he said. “We all resumed shipments,” he said. “Of course we did.”

The revelations by the government this month that contaminated meat reached Japanese markets have intensified food safety concerns in Japan, underscoring the government’s inability to control the spread of radioactive material into the nation’s food.

Radioactive material has been detected in a range of produce, including spinach, tea leaves, milk and fish. Contaminated hay has been found at farms more than 85 miles from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, suggesting that the radioactive fallout has reached a wider area than first suspected. (complete article)