The Japanese government discovered this week that 1,256 head of cattle have been fed hay poisoned with the radioactive material cesium. The hay, which was grown in the Fukushima prefecture, was given to the cattle during a food shortage that followed the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan. According to the government, the hay registered 690,000 becquerels of radiation — the government’s limit is 300 becquerels — and it was shipped to 45 of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The government of Japan has ordered all meat found over the allowable radioactive limit to be destroyed.

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“This is a major, major problem,” said Goshi Hosono, the food safety minister and the man at the helm of the Fukushima nuclear disaster response. Radioactive material, once in the human system, damages DNA and is known to cause leukemia and certain kinds of cancer. With the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plant already contaminated with radioactive material, food mishaps like this can put the rest of the country at high risk.

Food products like spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have been found to contain unsafe levels of cesium and iodine. Though fish have been tested and found to be poisoned with radioactive materials, the Japanese government says that so far, no radioactive fish have entered the food chain.

Via Bloomberg