Entries in Milk (2)


Japan Radiation Contaminates Food Sent Beyond Affected Area

KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Many Japanese citizens around the Fukushima nuclear plant have evacuated amid growing fears of increased radiation seeping into the ground and air. But Japanaese officials now fear that high levels of radioactive materials have entered the food supply as efforts continue to get the damaged nuclear reactors under control.

Japan has placed restrictions on foods, including spinach and milk that were produced in two provinces around the stricken nuclear plant. Food inspectors detected iodine and cesium in the food, two of the more dangerous radioactive byproducts that are feared to have been released from the plants in Fukushima.

Spinach from one farm in Hitachi, a town 45 miles away from the plant, contained 27 times the amount of iodine and four times the amount of cesium that is considered safe. At a dairy farm in Iitate, which is about 18 miles from the plant, the raw milk contained Iodine levels 17 times higher than considered safe.

Radioactive iodine found in the air falls to the ground naturally, or is brought down with the rain or snow. On a farm, the radioactive substances can embed in the grass that cows eat, and are then excreted in its milk.

High levels of iodine that can be absorbed through the milk can accumulate in the thyroid and specifically cause thyroid cancer. High levels of cesium can damage cells and put many people at higher risk of developing other kinds of cancer.

Many of the local farms surrounding the plant export their products to areas outside the radiation zone. Some products are even shipped internationally to countries such as the United States.

While none of the produce found to be contaminated has been shipped outside of the local Japanese market, officials said, there might have been some contaminated produce that was not tested and could have slipped through. Many food safety experts say that consuming food or milk that contains high radiation levels can be as dangerous as exposure to high levels in the air.

Since 9/11, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have implemented blanket radiation screenings for nearly all U.S. imports, including food. And U.S. food safety officials say they're confident in the system designed to prevent contaminated foods from entering from Japan.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan Halts Contaminated Food Shipments from Area Near Plant

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- As the death toll mounts from Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Japanese health officials are now faced with evidence of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant seeping into milk and spinach.

The officials made the decision Monday to ban shipments and consumption of the foods from Fukushima Prefecture and Ibaraki Prefecture.  The tainted milk was found within a 20-mile radius of the plant while the spinach turned up more than 65 miles away, about half the distance to Tokyo.

Substances detected in food were iodine 131 and cesium 137, both byproducts of reactors.  High levels of iodine 131 can cause thyroid cancer, while cesium 137 can lead to damaged cells and cancer.

According to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, consuming the contaminated food for a year would expose someone to about the same radiation one would receive in a single CT scan.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that exposure measures about seven millisieverts, or double the annual exposure per person in an industrialized country.

Meanwhile, radioactive iodine that has turned up in Tokyo's tap water is supposedly at such low levels that the Japanese government contends it's nothing to be worried about.

All these new concerns came as the government Monday updated the official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami to 8,600.  It’s expected that the number of fatalities will eventually exceed 20,000.  In fact, some police estimates put the death toll now at 18,000.  Many thousands are still missing.

In other developments, over the weekend, officials with the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, said there was some progress in restoring power to the two least damaged reactors, numbers 5 and 6.

Reactor 3 is proving to be the most problematic, prompting discussions about venting more radioactive gases to avoid a potentially catastrophic pressure build-up.  However, by late Sunday, TEPCO officials said that the pressure had gone down and there was no need to release more contaminated gases into the atmosphere.

Even as electrical power was being routed to all the reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in order to power the idled cooling systems, there was no clear indication whether those cooling systems will actually work.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio