Japanese officials have reportedly confirmed that beef registering up to seven times more radioactive cesium than permitted has entered the food supply, raising concerns among consumers about the country’s safety precautions. The first batch of tainted beef apparently came from six cattle farmed within 18 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was compromised by an earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. After passing external radiation tests, the cattle were sold to butchers in Tokyo—where government workers first detected the contamination—and then to wholesalers and retailers in eight prefectures. A second batch of compromised cattle originated in Asakawa, approximately 37 miles from the power plant, and was shipped to slaughterhouses in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Miyagi prefectures three months ago.

In both cases, the cattle allegedly ate rice straw containing 97,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram instead of the 300 becquerels permitted by law, thus causing internal contamination that went undetected by standard tests. “It would be better not to rush them to the butcher,” said Shizuko Kakinuma, a National Institute of Radiological Sciences researcher, who recommended that government increase its radiation testing to one animal per herd. Nevertheless, she noted, it remains “unlikely” that anyone in Japan could consume enough beef each day to create a health concern. See The Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2011; Bloomberg, July 15, 2011.