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Senior vice Health Minister, Kohei Otsuka, said beef from nearby areas may also be affected. It comes after 136 cows were found to have consumed feed affected by radioactive caesium.

This is the latest health scare connected to the Fukushima Daiichi power plant damaged by the earthquake. “The most likely result is that we will ban beef shipments,” said Goshi Hosono, the cabinet minister responsible for the nuclear cleanup. “We have to ensure food safety.”

Increasing numbers of cows have been found to have inspired rice straw contain high levels of radioactive caesium. The straw was harvested from rice paddies in Fukushima prefecture after a devastating earthquake and tsunami trigger a radiation leak at the local power plant.

Distributors across the country have buy meat from exposed cows and some of it could have already reached consumers. A major supermarket chain Aeon said that hundreds of kilos of the beef have been sold at 14 of its food in Tokyo and the nearby areas. The retailer said it would start to check beef shipments from all areas for contamination.

The government has also recognized that the problem could be wider than just Fukushima. The initial discovery of impure beef was traced back to farms near the Fukushima power plant, but more recent discovery is from farms as far as 100km (70 miles) away.

However, farm ministry officials said that overwhelming the beef a few times would not pose a health risk, despite emission levels more than a few times the national limit. Shipments of certain vegetables from area near the plant had already been halted due to high inflation levels.

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