The meat of six cows shipped from a Fukushima Prefecture farm at the heart of growing concerns over radioactive beef has been distributed to at least nine prefectures, including Tokyo and Osaka, and some was believed consumed, local government officials said Tuesday.
The cows ate the same straw at a farm in Minamisoma near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as another 11 cows that were shipped to a Tokyo meat-packing plant and whose meat was found to contain excessive levels of the isotope.
Cows at the farm are believed to have been exposed to radiation internally because they were fed straw that contained radioactive cesium at levels far above the allowable limit, probably because it had been kept outdoors.
The farm shipped the six cows between May and June, according to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Their beef was distributed to Tokyo and Shizuoka, Osaka, Kanagawa and Ehime prefectures. It was also distributed to dealers in Hokkaido, Aichi, Tokushima and Kochi.
According to Aichi Prefecture, 5.9 kg of meat was shipped to a grill eatery in the prefecture from a Tokyo processing plant and 3.15 kg of that meat had been consumed.
Hokkaido said one cow's worth of meat was consumed in a restaurant in Chitose.
The meat was also sold at a supermarket chain in Tokushima and Kochi prefectures.
Excessive levels of radioactive cesium were found in the distributed beef kept at a restaurant in the city of Shizuoka and at a wholesaler in Tokyo, according to the officials.
The agriculture ministry will conduct safety inspections on all farms that raise cattle for beef, or about 260 in all, in areas of Fukushima Prefecture that are subject to resident evacuations of varying degree.
On Monday, the Fukushima Prefectural Government separately began inspections at farms in connection with the shipments.
"Eating only a portion of the meat will not cause a great deal of damage to one's health," said Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge food safety.
Cesium 137 has a half-life of about 30 years, while the half-life of cesium 134 is about two years. If it enters the body, it may spread to muscle and other organs, and cause cancer.
The beef from the 11 cows processed at the Tokyo plant has been found to contain radioactive cesium three to six times the allowable level, and was not shipped to markets.
The straw at the Minamisoma farm contained radioactive cesium around 56 times the allowable limit.