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Radioactive contamination of beef in Japan worsens

In the aftermath of the nuclear catastrophe, Fukushima farmers claim that the Japanese federal and prefecture governments gave no warning or advice about how they should prevent radioactivity from contaminating their cattle, as through exposed feed. As a result, many cattle contaminated above regulatory limits have been marketed to grocery stores and restaurants.

On July 19, the Japanese federal government issued a ban on beef exports from Fukushima prefecture in an effort to stem the flow of contaminated cattle, many of which were fed contaminated rice hay in the wake of a food shortage after the disaster. Some hay measured radioactive cesium contamination at 690,000 becquerels per kilogram, while Japan’s “permissible” level is set at 300 becquerels/kg. Originally reported as 500, the number of contaminated cattle has now increased to over 1,200. Contaminated beef may have been shipped to 45 of the 47 prefectures in Japan.

Other foods, including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have also been found to be contaminated with cesium and iodine, some as far as 360 kilometers (225 miles) from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi atomic reactors.

One Fukushima farmer referred to his ghost town -- that should have been a bustling farming community, but evacuated due to high levels of radioactive fallout – in terms of a “silent spring.” Rachel Carson used that very phrase as the title of her 1962 book, warning about the hazards of pesticides and radioactivity, which helped launch the environmental movement.

These stories show how difficult it is to monitor and control radioactive contamination in modern farming and food distribution systems and therefore, how difficult it is to keep people, especially children, safe from internal doses of radiation due to ingestion.  Since no dose of radiation is safe, it is advisable to not contaminate our environment in the first place.

Help protect the children of Fukushima from radioactivity by signing Green Action Japan’s petition, and help prevent a Fukushima in the U.S. by signing Beyond Nuclear’s petition to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission calling for an immediate shut down of the 23 particularly dangerous General Electric Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors operating in this country.