The government lifted its ban on shipments of beef cattle from Miyagi Prefecture Aug. 19 after approving measures to detect radioactive contamination from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Shipments were suspended July 28 after radioactive cesium levels above government standards were found in the meat of cattle from the prefecture.
The government had planned to lift a ban on shipments from Fukushima Prefecture at the same time, but postponed the decision after radioactive cesium levels exceeding standards were found from meat stored at a meat treatment center on Aug. 19. The ban will be lifted as soon as the reasons are identified.
The government is still considering whether to lift bans on shipments from Iwate and Tochigi prefectures.
The government approved methods proposed by Miyagi Prefecture to inspect cattle and manage straw contaminated with radioactivity.
Ranchers in areas with high radiation levels, as well as those who fed contaminated straw to their livestock, will be able to ship cattle for sale if radiation levels are below safety standards in inspections covering all such animals.
Other ranchers will be able to ship cattle for a certain period if radiation levels are below standards in one or more head of cattle in the first shipment.
Contaminated straw will be removed from barns and colored with a special spray to prevent it from being used as feed. Officials said cattle will not eat sprayed straw because of the smell.
Prefectural government officials will conduct regular on-site inspections for contaminated straw.
The volume of beef cattle shipped from Miyagi Prefecture is not expected to recover anytime soon, however.
Cattle will be butchered for meat only in the prefecture.
At ranches in Fukushima Prefecture, fattened cattle have become weak or died while shipments remained suspended.
A 38-year-old rancher in Kitakata, Fukushima Prefecture, is breeding about 150 head of cattle, with more than 10 ready for shipment.
On the morning of Aug. 6, the rancher found one of them, weighing about 650 kilograms, dead in his barn.
At a ranch in Tanagura, Fukushima Prefecture, one animal weighing about 700 kilograms was lying down and gasping for breath.
(This article was written by Nobuya Sawa and Keiichiro Inoue.)
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