Local authorities in Japan are working to determine whether the country's traditional staple crop is contaminated with unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.
At least 18 of the prefectural governments most acutely affected by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster last spring are running tests to gauge the safety of local food supplies. The areas produce nearly half of the nation’s rice crops, Reuters reports.
“Continuous consumption of rice containing cesium above the government-imposed limit of 500 becquerels per kg over a year will result in internal radiation exposure above 5 millisieverts, one of the more conservative standards for radiation exposure set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection,” the Japanese health ministry said in a statement.
Crops will be checked both before and after harvesting. Radiation fears were swelling in June as citizen journalists and scientists created a map alleging widespread contamination throughout eastern and northern Japan - as far as 100 miles away from ground zero.
Levels appear highest near Fukushima and toward its northwest. The vicinity around immediate southwest of the reactors shows elevated radiation, and a large pocket of contamination has settled further south in the outskirts of Tokyo.
Japanese authorities suspended beef shipments from the Fukushima region last month. Rice straw cows absorbed unsafe levels of cesium through their feed stocks. Crops such as rice and grains quickly absorb radiation, potentially making dairy products and produce unsafe for human consumption.