Japanese radioactive beef scare
Beef from Fukushima, a prefecture in east Japan, found to be radioactive after some 132 cattle ate tainted straws. The Japanese government is set to impose a ban on all beef shipments from this prefecture
On Sunday, a radioactive beef scare spread in Japan. According to AFP, nearly four months after March’s quake and tsunami that triggered a nuclear disaster, increasing parts of the country reported contaminated meat.
Local Japanese media reported that meat from 132 possibly infected cattle have been shipped across the country. These cattle ate straws tainted with high levels of radioactive caesium. Leading Japanese broadcasting network, NHK stated that 36 out of 47 prefectures in Japan were shipped with these contaminated meats. Meanwhile, these meats were consumed in 31 of these prefectures, including Tokyo. Some supermarkets in the capital have put up signs warning about radioactive beef.
The government is expected on Tuesday to ban all beef shipments from Fukushima prefecture, where the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is still emitting radiation. Japan has not set up a centralised system to check food for radiation, relying instead on testing carried out by local authorities.
Kohei Otsuka, senior vice health minister, suggested that the beef shipment ban might also be expanded to cover areas outside Fukushima, depending on the results of investigations into the extent of the contamination.
‘Our discussions have been that from the 19th (Tuesday) we will ask for a shipment control on Fukushima beef,' Otsuka told a television political programme.
‘At this point, we are considering Fukushima prefecture. But we may consider whether further action is needed after studying how contaminated straw was distributed,’ he said.
The Japanese government has sought to assure the public that there is no immediate health threat from eating standard quantities of beef, even if it is tainted.
In Singapore, the Agri-food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore imposed a ban on food imports, such as milk, meat and produce, from areas near the nuclear reactors that had been hit. With this scare, many are worried about the safety of beef consumption here. However, Singaporeans can be rest assured that the beef sold here are safe. An AVA spokesman spoke to SPH’s mypaper reporter and confirmed that less than 1 per cent of all the meat Singapore imports is from Japan. Furthermore, beef from Japan is only from AVA-approved sources. Since 11 March 2011, samples of fresh produce exported from Japan such as seafood, fruits, vegetables and meat, are tested for radioactive contaminants.
‘AVA continues to closely monitor the radiation situation and test food imported from Japan,’ the spokesman added. ‘So far, samples of meat have tested negative for radioactive contamination.’
News about the beef scare does not seem to trouble meat lovers in Singapore. Vietnamese computer programmer who works in Singapore, Eric Nguyen, enjoys eating out and trying new food. He eats beef several times a week. When asked if he would begin to avoid the meat, he said: ‘ No. I would not stop eating beef. I think people are overly concerned. Plus, with the AVA confirmation, I am certain that beef here is safe for consumption.’
Photo credit: AFP