Sunday, July 17, 2011


On July 7, I reported about high levels of radiation found in some beef cattle from Fukushima prefecture in Japan ("Why Radiation-Contaminated Cattle are Bad News"). These cattle were raised about 20-30km away from the radiation-spewing nuclear power plant. I also noted that testing had caught the problem before the beef reached the market. Not so. The initial reports were wrong. Some of this beef, with 3-6 times allowed levels of the radionuclide, cesium, has been sold - and eaten. At least 2,650 pounds of it. Consumers in Japan are not happy. With reason.

In fact, it turns out that the contaminated meat has not just been sold in Tokyo, but in at least 13 prefectures of Japan (maybe more). Japan's second-biggest retailer, Aeon Co. admitted today to selling the beef. It's not the only one. The cattle had been fed rice straw tainted with radiation, in spite of the farmer's claims that he was very careful about cattle feed.

New bans and better testing are in the works. Consumers are suffering, and so are farmers, distributors, retailers. As far as we know at present, the suspect beef has not been exported to other countries. Japanese food exports are already down as a result of bans on many products in a number of countries. This will make the situation worse.

Unfortunately, with food contamination events, the news invariably gets worse than in the initial reports: more products are found to be contaminated, hazardous food is found to have been distributed more widely than initially thought, more people become ill. And, on occasions, dangerous food has been sold and eaten when we believed that testing had caught it in time. As in this case.

Is more bad news to come? My guess: as testing is expanded, high levels of cesium will soon be found in more cattle and in other food animals and poultry (read the four questions I raise in the July 7th post).

To your good health,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is yet another argument for buying local. Although I don't buy beef there, I do obtain a lot of produce from weekly farmers' markets. Not only is the produce fresher, it passes through fewer hands, thereby reducing the risk of contamination.