Meiji Holdings Co. has announced a voluntary recall of Meiji Step, a powdered baby formula meant for infants over nine months old. This recall comes after the company discovered traces of radioactive compounds Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 in batches of the formula that were distributed in May and likely packed in March of this year. While Meiji assures consumers that any radiation levels are well within safe limits and do not pose a health risk, the company has nonetheless initiated the voluntary recall of 400,000 cans of the potentially contaminated product.
According to Bloomberg, the company’s investigation into the baby formula was prompted by a customer complaint. Tests conducted by Meiji over the weekend uncovered Cesium-134 levels of up to 15.2 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg), while Cesium-137 levels reached up to 16.5Bq/kg. It sounds alarming out of context, but Meiji has stated that the maximum level of radiation permissible in milk and dairy products for children is 200Bq/kg. The levels of Cesium isotopes found in Meiji Step are considered far below the level where a recall is necessary from a health standpoint.
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But many food experts recommend staying away from any radiation whatsoever, especially where children are involved. It also nearly goes without saying that the shadow of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is still relatively fresh in consumers’ minds, and it doesn’t take much radiation to remind them of the dangers faced not so long ago. Health risks or not, it isn’t an appetizing thought. Therefore, a Meiji spokesperson told Food Production Daily, the company has initiated the recall and offered to replace the contaminated Meiji Step products to provide its customers with “peace of mind.”
As it stands, the origin of the contamination is not yet clear. A statement issued by Meiji conjectures that isotopes may have contaminated the formula during its drying process (the formula was produced at a facility in Saitama prefecture 125 miles away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant), but a food expert told Food Production Daily that a more likely explanation would be that the cesium was already present in raw milk produced by cows who had recently eaten cesium-contaminated crops. Whatever the reason, Meiji has stated that it will work hard to improve its quality control program in order to keep its customers safe in the future.