Cesium found in Japanese Powdered Milk

TOKYO – Radioactive cesium was found in milk powder made by a Meiji Holdings Co. unit, causing the shares to fall the most in eight months and raising concern that nuclear radiation is contaminating baby food.  The investigation was made following a complaint from a consumer last month, a spokesman said.

Amid concern that babies are more susceptible to the harmful effects of radioactive materials than adults, the ministry has planned to set a new limit for food products for babies.

Radioactive cesium of up to 30.8 becquerels per kilogram has been found in baby formula manufactured and sold by Meiji Co., the major food company said Tuesday, citing an internal inspection.  

 Tests on Dec. 3 and 4 found Cesium-134 at levels as high as 15.2 becquerels per kilogram, while cesium-137 was recorded at levels as high as 16.5 Bq/kg, Meiji said.

The products were made at a factory in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo, between March 14 and March 20, the company said. The raw milk used as the basis for the powder was produced before the March 11 disaster and water used in the production process wasn’t found to be contaminated, Meiji said.

The formula in question was manufactured at a company plant in Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture. It came from cow milk produced before the March 11 disaster, according to the company.

Meiji said in a statement that the level “is said to be one that does not influence health even if (the formula) is drunk every day.”

However, Slim Dinsdale, a food safety consultant based in Norwich,England said, “I’d want to avoid cesium if I knew it was there, whether it was a safe dose or not.”

  • Meiji commands roughly a 40 percent share of the domestic baby formula market.

  • Prior to the latest discovery, the company had said no radioactive cesium was found in its product samples. 
  • The product was tested after consumers questioned its safety last month.

  • The cesium found in the latest case was detected in stocks not subject to sampling tests.

  • Meiji says 30.8 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram was found in powdered milk produced from March 14th to the 20th.

The company suspects a link with the radioactive leaks from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant damaged by the March earthquake and tsunami, saying that raw milk for its “Meiji Step” powders may have come into contact with airborne radioactive cesium when it was being dried.

“Because the cesium gets diluted to 3 to 4 becquerels (per kg) when the powders are put into hot water, we don’t think it will have an impact on health. But we still want to address the anxieties of those who bought the product with replacements,” the official said.

Meiji shares fell as much as 13 percent in Tokyo, ending trading down 9.7 percent at a 30-month low of 3,020 yen.

Source: NHK News

Source: BusinessWeek

Source: Mainichi

Source: Bloomberg

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