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Cesium, however, can stay in soil for 30 years. But animals intended for slaughter can be given clean feed for a few months until cesium in their bodies drops to safe limits, he says. Also, the radiation stays only in the top inches of soil so deep plowing can make a field safe to use.

Q: Wait a minute, the U.S. and other countries irradiate certain foods to kill bacteria. How is that different?

A: No radioactivity is left in irradiated foods because the energy used, from such sources as X-rays and electron beams, is too low. The FDA, World Health Organization and other authorities have repeatedly found the process to be safe.

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EDITOR’S NOTE _ Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington. AP Medical Writer Margie Mason in Hanoi, Vietnam, contributed to this report.