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Japan Bans Sale of Fukushima Cattle


Calves arrive at a dairy cattle market to be put up for auction in Motomiya, Fukushima prefecture, 50 kms west of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, July 14, 2011

Calves arrive at a dairy cattle market to be put up for auction in Motomiya, Fukushima prefecture, 50 kms west of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, July 14, 2011

Japan has imposed a ban on all beef coming from Fukushima, the prefecture where three nuclear reactors melted down following the March 11 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. And, the government is also apologizing for its delayed response to radioactive meat reaching the market.

The Japanese government has belatedly banned beef from Fukushima prefecture, a week after meat with excessive levels of radioactive cesium was distributed to stores across much of the country.

Chief Cabinet SecretaryYukio Edano says officials are still attempting to ascertain the extent of the sale of the contaminated meat.

Edano says that some beef cattle outside Fukushima prefecture were also fed rice straw with high levels of radioactive cesium. He says the government is working with surrounding communities and the Agriculture Ministry to track all such meat that was distributed.

This is the latest embarrassing incident for the government of Prime Minister Naoto Kan which has struggled to cope with one of Japan's worst-ever disasters. More than 20,000 people died in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. It also severely damaged the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant where reactors suffered meltdowns. That prompted evacuations of numerous villages in Fukushima prefecture, a primarily agricultural area, where crops were irradiated.

Kan apologized on Tuesday for the beef incident and said he is extremely sorry he was not able to prevent it from happening.

Top government spokesman Edano acknowledges Japan did not act quickly enough after the first cases of contaminated beef were reported.

Edano says the government did not fully inform the public and cattle farmers, causing them deep anxiety. He says, for that, the government is deeply sorry.

Edano adds that cattle farmers will be compensated for their losses as a result of the ban.

Authorities say more than 600 cows ate contaminated straw. They say the feed consumed by the animals measured up to 500 times the national safety limit for radioactive cesium. But Japan's health ministry insists that the radioactive meat that was consumed by people does not pose a risk to them.

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