Japan finds radioactive contaminated rice

Agriculture Ministry said this was the first time that more than trace levels of cesium had been found in rice.

Updated: Aug 19, 2011, 15:57 PM IST

Tokyo: Japanese inspectors on Friday reportedly found the first case of radioactive contamination in rice, adding the national grain to the list of foods harmed by the accident at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

According to an American newspaper, inspectors in Japan`s Ibaraki Prefecture, which is located north of Tokyo, found radioactive cesium in a sample of rice from the city of Hokota, about 90 miles south of the radiation-spewing Fukushima nuclear plant.

The prefecture said the radiation was well within safe levels: It measured 52 becquerels per kilogram, about one-tenth of the government-set limit for grains.

The prefecture said two other samples tested at the same time showed no contamination.

The Japanese Agriculture Ministry said this was the first time that more than trace levels of cesium had been found in rice, though it said there was no health risk.

Rice is the staple in most Japanese dishes, and holds a place in the collective national heart that exceeds that of apple pie for Americans, or baguettes for the French.

Fears over atomic contamination of rice had been building ahead of this year’s autumn harvest, the first since the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in March.

Adding to the anxiety is the fact that Japan’s mountainous northeast, which bore the brunt of the triple disaster, is one of the nation’s most productive rice-growing regions.

The discovery Friday was also likely to fan growing fears here about the safety of Japan’s food supply. Radiation exceeding safe levels has already been found in products from beef to spinach and green tea.

On Friday, the agriculture ministry decided to keep in place a ban on sales of beef from Fukushima Prefecture, site of the nuclear accident, after another sample of beef was found to contain high levels of radioactive cesium.

The ban was imposed a month ago after the detection of radioactive cesium in beef that exceeded safe levels.