Meiji Holdings Co. has announced that traces of the radioactive substance Cesium have been found in its baby milk powder amid suspicions that contamination occurred during the drying process.
Whilst it is unclear exactly how many cans have been contaminated, the company is recalling 400,000 units of “Meiji Step”, a milk formula for babies older than nine months.
In a statement provided to FoodProductionDaily.com, Meiji said the 850g cans, which expire in October 2012, contained a “slight” trace of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137.
According to Bloomberg, tests conducted by the company on 3rd and 4th December detected levels of 15.2 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) of Cesium-134, and 16.5 Bq/kg of Cesium-137.
Exact cause unclear
The milk powder was packaged in April and mostly distributed in May – just a few months after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It was produced at a factory in the Saitama prefecture, located 125 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant.
In its statement, the Tokyo-based business insisted that the levels detected were below safety levels set out by the Food Hygiene Law. According to these regulations, the permissible level for milk and dairy products for infants is 200 Bq/kg. However, Meiji said that to offer its customers “peace of mind” it was offering to replace the recalled products.
Food safety consultant, Dr Slim Dinsdale told this publication that infants, in particular, are “very susceptible” to the threat posed by radioactive substances, as their cells are actively developing. He added that it was “sensible to avoid” consuming the product even if it conformed to safety guidelines.
Although the exact cause of the contamination is unclear, Meiji stated that it possibly entered the product during the drying process. Dinsdale finds this “odd” explaining that it would make more sense if the cesium was present in the raw milk produced by cows that had eaten crops which had been contaminated as a result of the nuclear fallout.
“Increased possibility” of similar incidents
In response to the discovery of cesium, the company said that it “will work to improve the quality control system” so that it can “continue to deliver safe products” to consumers. It also stated that no radioactive material has been detected in any of its other products.
Dinsdale observed that if radioactive material from the Fukushima disaster has got into the eco-system, there is an “increased possibility” that it will have become concentrated in raw materials.
He added that it “seems likely” that there could be more incidents of this kind depending on the residual levels of radioactivity present, but such speculation also needed “to be taken with a pinch of salt.”