Japan Not Sure Where the Nuclear Contaminated Beef Is

Saturday, July 23, 2011
Meat counter in Japan
In the wake of Japan’s worst-ever civilian nuclear catastrophe, the government failed to take precautions against radiated feed being consumed by cattle as a result of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant meltdown. The result has alarmed the population as well as exporters, creating fear that nuclear-tainted meat may be consumed both locally and abroad.
Government officials said Wednesday that they can’t be sure if contaminated beef was sold overseas. They do know that meat from cattle grazing in the Fukushima prefecture, which accounts for 2.6% of Japan’s beef-cattle production, was delivered to 45 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
At first, 637 cattle were discovered to have eaten hay containing radioactive cesium. Then the number jumped to nearly 1,500.
The United States and Japan have a history of banning each other’s beef exports. Japan imports and exports beef, the latter being small and of a gourmet variety.
In 2001, the U.S. banned Japanese beef over mad cow disease fears. Japan returned the favor in 2003 over the same disease. They lifted their respective bans in 2005. However, six weeks later Japan reinstated its ban, and then six months later reduced it to a partial ban that still stands.
The partial ban resulted in U.S. exports to Japan from 2004-2009 being 15% what they were in 2003. The National Cattleman’s Association estimated that translates to $1 billion a year in lost exports for American producers.
The U.S. banned Japanese beef again in April 2010 over fears of foot-and-mouth disease.  
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Ken Broder
Contaminated Japanese Beef May Have Been Exported (by Aya Takada and Yuriy Humber, Bloomberg News)
Japan Halts Sale of Fukushima Beef (by Phred Dvorak and Juro Osawa, Wall Street Journal)


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