Simpler radiation detectors to be permitted for beef

Kyodo

The government will allow more widely available, simpler detectors to inspect beef for radiation contamination as it prepares to impose broader screening of cattle to contain the widening food scare, government officials said Friday.

There is a limited number of the regular devices, called germanium semiconductor detectors, available to monitor radioactive materials in beef from all cattle in areas where straw containing radioactive cesium above the government-set limit has been found.

Detailed inspections will continue near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the government ordered that all cattle shipped from the prefecture must be screened.

The government is under pressure to step up measures to contain the beef scare as fears of contamination have spread from vegetables and seafood to livestock products, scaring consumers away from beef and causing wholesale prices to drop.

The government is considering setting a more stringent safety limit for inspections using the basic detectors, with detailed subsequent checks of beef screened out by the initial monitoring.

The detectors for quick inspections cost about one-tenth of the more than ¥20 million germanium semiconductor detector and take one hour or less to gauge radioactive materials, against several hours for the conventional device.

Around 1,500 head of cattle suspected of being fed contaminated hay have been shipped from 11 prefectures, reaching all prefectures except Okinawa.