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Russia Bans Food Imports From 6 Japanese Prefectures

Farmer Sumiko Matsuno (l) and her friend, bag carrots on her far, as she fears no one will buy them with the current radiation fallout in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, March 24, 2011

Russia says it has banned Japanese food imports from six prefectures of Japan in response to excessive radiation detected in food products from those regions, which surround an earthquake- and tsunami-damaged nuclear plant.

Russia's consumer protection agency said Thursday it imposed the ban in response to radioactivity readings from the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

It says the readings showed levels of iodine and cesium exceeding the permissible level in food from the six prefectures, including Chiba, Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Nagano and Tochigi.

Russia says another factor behind the import suspension is Japan's own ban on internal sales of raw milk and some vegetables from the affected regions. There have been no reports of contaminated Japanese foodstuffs reaching Russian ports.

In another development, the Russian news agency Interfax quotes a consumer protection official as saying a cargo ship arrived in Russia's Far East with excessive radiation after passing near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Gennady Onishchenko said Thursday the Panamanian-flagged vessel had delivered Russian timber to Japan before returning to the port of Vanino in Russia's Khabarovsk territory on Wednesday. He said inspectors found radiation levels three times above the limit in the ship's engine rooms, while its cabins were normal.

Onishchenko says the vessel is in quarantine and its crew of 18 Russians and one Ukrainian have been put under medical supervision. He says no changes to their health have been detected.

The United States announced a ban Tuesday on all milk products, fresh fruit and vegetables from four radiation-affected Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi. The Food and Drug Administration says Japan accounts for about 4 percent of foods imported to the United States.

Elsewhere, France has asked the European Commission to impose "systematic controls" on Japanese fresh produce reaching European borders. China and South Korea also have stepped up radioactivity inspections of Japanese food imports.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.