Japan jolted by radioactive infant formula

world | Dec 6, 2011 | By Martin Barillas

 A Japanese food manufacturer announced on December 6 that its quality controls detected deadly radioactive cesium in infant formula it produces. This is the most recent of such discoveries in Japan, some nine months after the deadly quake and tsunami that killed thousands and also seriously damaged a nuclear power plant at Fukushima.

Meiji’s stocks took a hit following the announcement, dropping ten percent to its lowest levels on the stock market since May 2009. The company has announced plans to retrieve 400,000 tins of infant milk formula in Japan alone. The product is also exported.

Concerns over food safety have peaked since the March 11 disaster. High levels of radiation have been found in vegetable, milk, seafood, and drinking water, even though Japanese authorities continue to insist that no health risk is posed.

Meiji is not certain how the cesium entered the production chain of the infant formula. Suspicions are that radioactivity released from the plume that emerged from the Fukushima plant on Japan’s eastern shoreline is to blame. One company source indicated that the cesium may have entered the milk in the hot air used to dry the formula.

An analysis shows that 30.8 bequerel units of cesium per kilo of formula have been detected. This is below the limit imposed by the Japanese government. Nonetheless, Meiji is voluntarily pulling its ‘Meiji Step’ infant formula. The level of cesium allowed by the Japanese government is 200 becquerel units per kilo of milk powder.

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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