TOKYO Dec 6 Japan's Meiji Holdings
said on Tuesday that radioactive cesium was found in
infant milk powder made by the food and dairy firm, in the
latest food scare to grip the country nearly nine months after
the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Shares of Meiji plunged nearly 10 percent to their lowest
close since May 2009 following the news. Meiji said it was
recalling 400,000 cans of the infant formula, which is sold only
Worries over the safety of food supplies have shaken the
public after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami crippled the
Fukushima Daiichi plant in the worst nuclear accident in 25
years, spreading radiation over a large swathe of northern and
Cases of excessive radiation in vegetables, tea, milk,
seafood and water have stoked anxiety despite assurance from
public officials that the levels detected are not dangerous.
Meiji said it is unsure exactly how the cesium got into the
powdered milk, but it suspects radioactive substances emitted
from the Fukushima accident may have been the source. A company
spokesman told Reuters hot air used in the drying process may
have contained cesium.
Tests by Meiji showed that up to 30.8 becquerels of cesium
was found per kilogramme of the powdered milk. That is below the
government-set permissible limit, but the firm will nevertheless
conduct a voluntary recall of the product, called "Meiji Step."
The limit set by Japan's health ministry is 200 becquerels
per kilogramme for powdered milk, an official at the ministry's
department of food safety said.
Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the operator of the
Fukushima plant, has made slow but steady progress in bringing
the facility under control, curbing the amount of radiation
emitted from its reactors and reducing temperatures of the water
cooling them to levels considered stable.
It is on track to declare a "cold shutdown" -- when water
used to cool the reactors is stable below boiling point --
before the end of the year.
Tepco said this week about 45 tonnes of contaminated water
had leaked from a system that cleans radiated water, of which
the utility said 300 litres escaped outside. But trade and
energy minister Yukio Edano told reporters on Tuesday that the
leak would not affect the goal of achieving a cold shutdown
before the year's end.
(Reporting by Yuka Obayashi and Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by