Japan halts some food shipments due to radiation

Japan has ordered a halt to shipments of certain foods from four prefectures after abnormal radiation levels were found in products near a quake-hit nuclear plant, a government spokesman said Monday.

But even eating or drinking the contaminated foodstuffs several times would not be a health hazard, Yukio Edano said at a news conference.

"So I would like you to act calmly," he said.

The suspension applies to spinach and another type of green vegetable from the prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma, as well as milk from Fukushima.

The discovery of tainted foodstuffs has fuelled public anxiety about the atomic crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, and its impact on health.

Several countries have said they will screen food imported from Japan for radiation contamination.

Taiwan found a shipment of fava beans had been slightly contaminated on Sunday and stepped up checks Monday, officials said.

The Fukushima nuclear plant was severely damaged by the 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami on March 11. Radioactive substances have since leaked into the air.

Edano suggested that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) would have to pay compensation to affected farmers.

"Primarily, since it's a nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power is supposed to be responsible," he said.

Authorities told people not to drink the tap water in a village near the Fukushima plant after high levels of radioactive iodine were detected.

Abnormal but much lower levels of radioactive substances had already been found in the water supply in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures including Fukushima.

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