Radiation has been detected on fava beans imported from Japan to Taiwan, Taiwanese officials said Sunday, in what could be the first case of contamination in Japanese exports.
The disclosure came a day after Japanese officials said radiation in low amounts had been found in spinach and milk produced near the damaged Fukushima nuclear power complex in northeast Japan that has been leaking radiation since being damaged by an earthquake and tsunami March 11.
An official from Taiwan's Department of Health said the radiation detected on the Japanese fava beans was slightly higher than naturally occurring trace levels.
The department said in a statement the beans were part of a 30-pound (14-kilogram) shipment that came from Kagoshima Prefecture on Japan's southwestern Kyushu island. It said the amount of radiation, detected only on the surface of the beans, was well below Taiwan's legal limit and not harmful to human health.
The official told The Associated Press that the Taiwanese authorities suspected the batch was contaminated during its delivery route rather than in Kagoshima because the prefecture is far from Fukushima, home to Japan's damaged nuclear reactors. The health official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Taiwan's Cabinet-level Atomic Energy Council Radiation Monitoring Center said in a statement that a small amount of iodine and cesium had been found on the batch of fava beans imported to Taiwan on Friday. The center said 11 becquerels of iodine and 1 becquerel of cesium were detected in 1 kilogram (about 2 pounds) of fava beans made available for testing.
Taiwan's regulations allow a maximum of 300 becquerels of iodine and 370 becquerels of cesium in 1 kilogram of food produce.
So far, Taiwanese officials do not have an answer as to how the beans may have been contaminated. The health official said that the shipment went through Japan's Narita Airport, which is 140 miles (220 kilometers) from Fukushima, but he cautioned there was no evidence to prove the batch was contaminated at the airport. He added the beans have not gone into circulation in Taiwan and will not be made available for sale.
The official said that while Taiwan has been stepping up measures scanning Japanese goods for radiation, it does not plan to suspend imports from its northern neighbor for now.
Japanese officials said Saturday that tainted milk and spinach were collected from farms ranging from 20 miles (30 kilometers) to 75 miles (120 kilometers) from the leaking nuclear reactors.
The area is rich farm country where a variety of foods are grown. Other tests are being conducted, and Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said food shipments from the area would be halted if further contamination was detected.
Japanese officials said the radiation amounts in the milk and spinach were so small that people would have to consume unimaginable amounts to endanger their health.
(This version CORRECTS Adds photo; corrects location of Kyushu island. This story is part of AP's general news and financial services.)