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Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Government bans further shipments from two districts but 9 kg already sold, Fukushima says

High cesium level found in Date rice


Staff writer

The government on Tuesday ordered a ban on the shipment of rice harvested in two more districts in Fukushima Prefecture after tests detected dangerously high levels of radioactive cesium.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said the central government has instructed Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to impose the ban on rice harvested this year in the Oguni district and the Tsukidate district, both in the city of Date.

On Monday, the Fukushima Prefectural Government announced that a combined 3,400 kg of unmilled rice harvested by two farms in the Oguni district and by one farm in the Tsukidate district contained between 580 and 1,050 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. The government's limit is 500 becquerels.

One of the farms in the Oguni district already has sold 9 kg of the tainted rice, the prefectural government said, adding it has yet to establish the identity of the buyer. The remainder of the Oguni rice has not reached the market, it said.

None of the rice harvested by the farm in Tsukidate has been distributed, and all 1,500 kg are currently being stored by the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives.

It is the second ban on rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture in the last two weeks. On Nov. 17, the government banned rice in the Onami district of the city of Fukushima after high levels of cesium were detected.

The prefectural government also decided Tuesday to inspect rice from about 2,300 farms in certain districts of Nihonmatsu and Motomiya where high radiation levels have been recorded.

Date is located next to the city of Fukushima, and parts of it have been designated as radiation hot spots where the annual exposure could exceed the maximum 20-millisievert limit.

"While we carried out the best inspection process we could think of, we must take the fact (that contaminated rice has been found) seriously," agriculture minister Michihiko Kano, hinting it may be necessary to devise new processes for inspecting rice.

The government will do its best to identify the buyer of the contaminated Oguni rice, he said.

The tainted rice was detected in new tests the Fukushima Prefectural Government started conducting on rice harvested by about 1,500 farms in the cities of Fukushima and Date after the central government banned rice from the Onami district.



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