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Two weeks ago, state broadcaster NHK showed a simulation of a “nuclear cloud” on March 15 blowing south from Fukushima and dropping cesium on the greater Tokyo area and even beyond the Mount Fuji volcano in Shizuoka province.

Japan’s central government at that time denied the existence of such a cloud, and Tokyo’s governor asked people to go back to work as normal, despite a mass exodus of foreigners that week after warnings from the U.S., French, German and other governments.

Also this week, the Agriculture Ministry said that at least 116 farms in 16 provinces, from Shimane province in western Japan to the main cattle-ranching province of Hokkaido in the far north, used contaminated rice straw as feed. At least 2,900 cattle ate the straw before being shipped around Japan, the ministry said.

“Beef containing cesium has already entered into the market,” Hideo Harada, director for livestock policy planning at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, told reporters in Tokyo. “We have to prevent it from reaching consumers by checking meat and recalling tainted products from the market.”

The Health Ministry banned the distribution of beef from Fukushima province July 19 and from Miyagi province July 26. The ministry also banned shiitake mushrooms from Fukushima on July 23, more than four months after people had been eating them after the release of radiation.

High levels of cesium also have been found in samples of milk, tea and seafood, as well as spinach, bamboo shoots and many other vegetables.

Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano admitted this month that officials didn’t realize that farmers might unwittingly send contaminated straw to ranchers.

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest daily newspaper, quoted an unnamed Agriculture Ministry official as saying: “This is nothing less than a colossal blunder by our ministry. It was beyond our expectations that straw would become a source of radioactive contamination.”