Date: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 11:48 +0900 (JST)
The Japanese government says it will buy back beef containing unsafe levels of radioactive cesium that has already reached the distribution chain.
Agriculture minister Michihiko Kano announced the step on Tuesday, adding that the contaminated beef will be purchased through a private-sector body.
Kano said the measure is designed to allay consumer concerns over the feeding of cattle with rice straw containing cesium in excess of the government-set limit.
NHK has learned that nearly 2,900 head of cattle allegedly given such feed have been shipped to 46 of Japan's 47 prefectures, excluding Okinawa.
Excessive levels of cesium have been detected in beef in 6 of the prefectures, including Fukushima, where work continues to contain a nuclear plant accident.
Beef with radioactive cesium at levels within the safety limit will not be bought back. But, the government will subsidize the cost of storing it for the time being.
Agriculture minister Kano assured consumers that these measures will ensure that only safe beef reaches market.
The costs of purchasing and storing the beef will be eventually passed on to Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the disabled nuclear plant.
The government will also help livestock farmers affected by restrictions and price declines by offering them 50,000 yen, or about 640 dollars, for each head of cattle that was supposed to be shipped.