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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Radiation tester in hot demand via beef scare


Retailers and consumers are inundating a private institute testing various items for radioactive materials to confirm the safety of beef products amid reports that cattle exposed to cesium were shipped nationwide, institute officials said.

Isotope Research Institute Inc., which is based in Yokohama, said it has received more than 150 inquiries including by phone and dozens of beef samples from all over the country since high levels of radioactive cesium were detected July 11 in straw fed to cattle at a farm in Fukushima Prefecture.

Since then, as the fallout from the ongoing nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 power plant widened, it has been learned that 1,349 cattle also possibly fed cesium-tainted straw had been shipped to 45 prefectures as of Wednesday.

Although the tests cost ¥15,000 per sample, orders are flocking to the institute due to a lack of equipment and personnel at public bodies such as the semipublic Japan Chemical Analysis Center supervised by the science and technology ministry and health centers of local governments.

"Consumers and supermarket store operators have come seeking our tests, saying their requests to administrative authorities have not been met," said the firm's president, Akira Hanawa.

About 40 public entities are also registered as capable of radiation testing with the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, but they tend to decline orders from the general public or put them on long waiting lists, according to ministry officials.

The situation has prompted Osaka PalCoop, a co-op based in the city, to buy a precision instrument costing roughly ¥20 million in June to check for radioactive materials, it said.

Since the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis, Isotope Research Institute has tested more than 7,000 samples of soil, breast milk, swimming pool water, beach sand and other items, having increased its instruments from one to 11 and personnel from two to 10, officials at the institute said.

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