An indefinite ban on spinach, kakina--a local green vegetable--and milk produced in Fukushima and nearby prefectures was announced on Monday by Prime Minister Naoto Kan when samples were found to be "hot." This is the first time the government issued a food ban since the Fukushima I nuclear plant exploded a few days ago.
The Japan Times said the ban may cause further public outcry already anxious from the damages brought by the recent powerful temblor and tsunamis, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told the people to stay calm.
Edano said, "What I want people to understand is that the amount of (contamination) will not pose a risk to public health even though the figure exceeded government standards."
He added that the food may have negative health effects if a person continues to consume them throughout his/her life.
"But experts agree that there is no health risk if a person eats the products occasionally," the Cabinet Secretary said.
The ban remains enforced until the nuclear crisis is resolved and until the radiation level falls below government limits.
The health ministry disclosed on Saturday that the radiation levels in spinach and milk samples were above the legal limits.
Spinach samples at a farm in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture had 27 times the standard [54,000 becquerels (Bq) of radioactive iodine (RI) per kg].
Milk samples from a village in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture was elevated 17 times the normal limit (5,250 Bq per kg).
It was also reported that farmers' losses will be recompensed. Fukushima I's operator, the Tokyo Electric Co., will be held the prime entity responsible to the issue.
With no existing food safety standards on radiation levels, the health ministry rapidly drafted a new guideline that said milk and dairy products with more than 300 Bq of RI or 200 Bq of radioactive cesium cannot be shipped.
For vegetables, the levels are 2,000 Bq of RI and 500 Bq of radioactive cesium.
Japanese authorities advised the 6,000 Iitate residents to stop drinking tap water when it was found the water to contain three times the allowed limit of iodine.
The government, however, assured that the water is safe to use for household purposes.
The total death toll post-quake was reported to rise at 8,649 with 13,262 people missing.
Details of this report here.