Japan Halts Sale of Food Products from near Fukushima
Japan has halted the sale of all food products from around the site of a nuclear power plant damaged by a tsunami a week ago, according to the UN nuclear watchdog.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there was a short-term risk to health after radioactive iodine was found in foods from Fukushima prefecture, where the power station is located.
Abnormal levels of radiation were detected in milk in Fukushima, while tainted spinach was discovered in neighbouring Ibaraki prefecture, Japanese officials said.
Government spokesman Yukio Edano had earlier urged calm, saying that the contaminated milk posed little health risk as drinking it for a year would only expose consumers to radiation the equivalent of one medical CT scan.
"It's not like if you ate it right away you would be harmed," he said. "It would not be good to continue to eat it for some time."
But the IAEA said radioactive iodine if ingested "can accumulate in and cause damage to the thyroid. Children and young people are particularly at risk of thyroid damage due to the ingestion of radioactive iodine".
In what it called another "critical" measure to counter contamination of food, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Japanese authorities on March 16 recommended that people leaving the area should ingest stable iodine.
Taken as pills or syrup, stable (non-radioactive) iodine can be used to help protect against thyroid cancer in the event of radiation exposure in a nuclear accident.
"Though radioactive iodine has a short half-life of about eight days and decays naturally within a matter of weeks, there is a short-term risk to human health if radioactive iodine in food is absorbed into the human body," the IAEA said in a statement.
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