FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — High levels of radioactive cesium were detected in straw fed to cattle at a farm in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, local officials said Monday, fueling suspicion it was the source of the radioactive contamination found in the meat of cows shipped from there.
The straw, saturated with an average of 75,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, around 56 times the allowable limit, was stored in an unroofed area of the farm when a series of explosions occurred at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, according to prefectural officials.
The farm located in one of the high-risk areas gave a total of 1.5 kg of the straw to one cow on average from early April, they said. The farm had kept the straw outdoors since last fall.
On March 19 the central government instructed farmers in areas around the damaged Fukushima power plant not to give livestock feed that had been stored outdoors.
But the farm went against the instruction as it was not able to procure feed blend due to disruption of its supply system following the March disaster, the officials said.
The prefectural government began inspecting animal feed at 260 farms outside the 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima plant but within designated high-risk areas, the officials said. The local government will eventually widen the inspection area to all farms in the prefecture, they added.
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said Monday it will strengthen its monitoring of cattle meat in Fukushima, and the nearby prefectures of Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Niigata.
Senior vice health minister Kohei Otsuka also said during a television program that if necessary, the government would begin testing all the meat of cows shipped from farms in areas surrounding the crippled power plant to insure the meat is safe to eat.
Last week, meat containing levels of cesium three to six times higher than the Japanese government-set safety limit of 500 becquerels per kg was found in all 11 cows shipped from the farm located in Minamisoma, 20 to 30 km north of the disaster-struck nuclear power plant. The highest level was 3,200 becquerels.
However, the same farm had also shipped five cows to Tokyo and one to Tochigi Prefecture in May and June, all which were fed with the radioactive-contaminated straw, according to an investigation by Fukushima prefectural government.
One of the six shipped was processed as meat, which was sent to Shizuoka Prefecture, and the reading of the cesium stood at 1,998 becquerels, much higher than the limit, the agriculture ministry said Monday.