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Agura Bokujo, operator of a cattle outfit in Tochigi Prefecture, became Japan’s biggest corporate failure this year after consumer fears over beef contaminated with radiation damaged sales, Tokyo Shoko Research said.

The closely held company had ¥433.1 billion in liabilities, Tokyo Shoko said Monday, citing Agura’s application Aug. 9 for bankruptcy protection.

In its earnings report for the year that ended in March, Agura had liabilities of ¥62 billion, said Kazufumi Masuda, a spokesman for Tokyo Shoko, which tracks corporate bankruptcy data.

Radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has entered the food chain in recent months, contaminating products from beef to milk and fish. Cattle with unsafe levels of radiation have been found in four prefectures after they were fed hay contaminated with as much as 690,000 becquerels per kilogram, compared with a government safety standard of 300 becquerels.

The discovery rattled consumer confidence after the government, which had assured shoppers that food sold in the market was safe, confirmed radiation-contaminated beef had been sold in stores. Companies affected included Aeon Co., the top supermarket chain.

Sales at Agura Bokujo were damaged by the discovery, Tokyo Shoko said, and followed on the heels of a drop in demand since the discovery of foot-and-mouth disease in Miyazaki Prefecture last year.

Food containing radioactive cesium or iodine that exceeded official standards has been found as far as 360 km from the Fukushima plant.

The government is still trying to put together a centralized system to check for radiation contamination of food, leaving local authorities and farmers conducting voluntary tests.

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