Nearly five months have passed since the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, but abnormally high levels of radioactive chemicals have recently been reported in beef from 136 cows in the surrounding areas.
Goshi Hosono, the cabinet minister responsible for the nuclear clean-up, has said he now plans to place a ban on all shipments of beef.
“We have to ensure food safety,” Hosono said.
Earlier this month, beef shipped from a farmer in Minami Soma City, near the nuclear power plant, contained up to six times the safe amount of radioactive cesium.
Japan’s second largest retailer reported on Sunday that it had sold beef from cows that had consumed nuclear-contaminated rice straw.
Health officials say that the beef would not pose a health risk if eaten in small quantities, despite the high levels of radiation. Certain vegetable shipments from areas near the nuclear plant have also been stopped due to radiation levels that exceed the national limit.
Health, Labor, and Welfare Vice Minister Kohei Otsuka told Japanese television, “At present we are talking about a ban on beef from Fukushima. In the future, depending on our investigation result on contaminated straw, we will decide on how we will deal with the situation. “
The earthquake and tsunami in March that caused the nuclear disaster at Fukushima was the worst in the country since 1986, and resulted in more than 15,500 dead, with another 5,000 remain missing.
The Japanese government announced last week that “stress tests” will be conducted in an attempt to assess and restore public confidence shaken since the earthquake.