TOKYO (UPDATED) - A scare in Japan over radioactive beef spread on Sunday with more parts of the country reporting contaminated meat, four months after March's quake and tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster.
Meat from 132 cattle that ate straw tainted with high levels of radioactive caesium are known to have been shipped across the country, according to local media including national network NHK and the Asahi Shimbun.
Of the 47 prefectures in Japan, contaminated meat is believed to have been shipped to 36 of them and consumed in 31, NHK said, including Tokyo.
Some supermarkets in the capital have put up signs warning about radioactive beef.
The government is expected on Tuesday to ban all beef shipments from Fukushima prefecture, where the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is still emitting radiation.
Japan has not set up a centralized system to check food for radiation, relying instead on testing carried out by local authorities.
Kohei Otsuka, senior vice health minister, suggested that the beef shipment ban may also be expanded to cover areas outside Fukushima, depending on the results of investigations into the extent of the contamination.
"Our discussions have been that from the 19th (Tuesday) we will ask for a shipment control" on Fukushima beef, Otsuka told a television political program.
"At this point, we are considering Fukushima prefecture. But we may consider whether further action is needed after studying how contaminated straw was distributed," he said.
The government has sought to assure the public that there is no immediate health threat from eating standard quantities of beef, even if it is tainted.