TOKYO (TR) – The Japanese government announced a ban on Thursday of rice grown near the damaged Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture after samples showed radioactive contamination above legal safety limits, Agence France-Presse said.
The discovery of contaminated rice on a farm in the district of Onami, which lies 35 miles (57 kilometers) northwest of TEPCO’s disabled Daiichi nuclear power plant, sparked the ban. That rice contained cesium levels measuring 630 becquerels per kilogram, AFP reported. The government considers levels above 500 becquerels unsafe.
“This restriction won’t be lifted until safety of the rice produced in the area can be confirmed,” an official from the agricultural ministry said, according to AFP. The ban affects 192 tons of rice produced this year from over 150 farms in the area, AFP said, citing the official.
The government has banned other food products since the March 11, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami over fears of contamination. This is the first time the government has banned rice, a staple on the island nation and considered important by many to Japanese culture.
Earlier this week, a team of international researchers said radioactive contamination could “severely impair” food production in eastern Fukushima as well as neighboring areas, AFP reported, citing their study in the U.S.-based Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.