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Friday, March 25, 2011

Global food scare widens from Japan nuclear plant

Corn being used for ethanol and fear of radiation contamination from Japanese food exports heighten world food scarcity fears

Global food scare widens

Countries across the world shunned Japanese food imports Thursday as radioactive steam leaked from a disaster-struck nuclear plant, straining nerves in Tokyo.

The grim toll of dead and missing from Japan's monster quake and tsunami on March 11 topped 26,000, as hundreds of thousands remained huddled in evacuation shelters and fears grew in the megacity of Tokyo over water safety.

The damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant from the tectonic calamity and a series of explosions has stoked global anxiety. The United States and Hong Kong have already restricted Japanese food, and France wants the EU to do the same.

Russia ordered a halt to food imports from four prefectures -- Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi -- near the stricken plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Moscow also placed in quarantine a Panama-flagged cargo ship that had passed near the plant and put its 19 crew under medical supervision after detecting radiation levels three times the norm in the engine room.

Australia banned produce from the area, including seaweed and seafood, milk, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables.

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