The government ordered a complete ban Thursday on all shipments of beef cattle from Miyagi Prefecture after detecting radioactive cesium above the government limit in some local cattle.
The government is also considering placing a similar ban on beef cattle from Iwate Prefecture, where five cattle from Ichinoseki and Fujisawa have already been found contaminated with radioactive cesium exceeding the limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.
That decision is expected to come next week, sources said.
The discovery of beef cattle from various prefectures in northeastern Japan with elevated levels of radioactive cesium has caused widespread concern.
The cattle were fed straw contaminated by fallout from the crippled and leaking Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Miyagi is the second prefecture after Fukushima to be given orders to suspend shipments of beef but likely won’t be the last.
“We feel regret for those in the stock-breeding industry but we will firmly continue to collect information and examine the situation from the viewpoint of safety,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Thursday afternoon.
“And naturally, we will take measures if necessary.”
Four of the six Miyagi Prefecture cattle are from Kurihara, and one each from Kakuda and Zao.
The farmers who shipped the six contaminated cattle and others who fed their cattle contaminated straw will be obliged to hold blanket tests on all of their slaughtered beef.
Other farmers will be required to test one cow on each ranch. About 30,000 beef cattle are shipped annually from Miyagi Prefecture.
The ban will be partially lifted at the request of the prefecture if steps to improve safety are implemented, the government said.
Edano added that the government would try to provide “appropriate compensation” to the farmers for the damages.
Many prefectural governments have decided to conduct blanket tests on their beef cattle, most recently Tochigi and Ibaraki.
Ibaraki will begin the testing Aug. 1 while Tochigi is expected to decide on the details next week.
The Miyagi, Gunma and Iwate prefectural governments have also already announced their intention to conduct tests for radiation contamination on all of their beef.
Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai told a press conference his government will screen meat from all cattle brought to the prefecture’s two slaughterhouses from Monday.
About 90 head of cattle go through the two slaughterhouses every day, and the prefecture will ship those that test safe with a safety certificate.
Earlier reports said most of the contaminated beef came from cattle fed rice straw that was kept outside in Fukushima Prefecture during the reactor meltdowns. Some of the feed was shipped to other areas.
Information from Kyodo added