The government on Thursday lifted the last bans on shipments of beef cattle — from Iwate, Fukushima and Tochigi prefectures — suspended due to leaks of radioactive material from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The government lifted the ban on beef cattle shipments from Miyagi Prefecture on Aug. 19.
Shipments from the three prefectures were suspended after cesium exceeding the government limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram was found in meat from local farms. The cattle were contaminated after being fed straw tainted by radioactive fallout.
According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, farmers can resume shipments on condition the meat passes inspection by local prefectural governments.
“The resumption does not mean all beef cattle will be shipped freely” without any inspections, Edano said.
Cattle from farms where contaminated straw was either previously used or was not checked for use will be inspected for radiation, Edano said.
At least one beef cow from all other farms will be checked for radiation every three months.
The first beef cattle from the prefectures will be slaughtered on Monday, with checks to be completed in two to three days. The first shipments will begin on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1, agricultural ministry officials said.
According to the ministry, more than 1,500 cattle possibly contaminated with radioactive cesium have been shipped across the country. The government has said eating beef poses no risk to health given the small amount of radioactive materials and the short time period during which the contaminated beef was on the market.
The government stopped cattle shipments from Fukushima, Iwate and Tochigi prefectures on July 19, Aug. 1 and Aug. 2, respectively.
An earlier plan to lift shipment bans on Fukushima and Miyagi beef cattle was postponed till Thursday to probe why high levels of cesium were found in beef cattle not fed tainted straw. Edano said those cattle were found to have eaten imported hay stored outdoors that was exposed to radioactive fallout from the plant.