Image: Koshihikari brand rice, found to contain radioactive contamination.
Jiji Press  /  AFP - Getty Images
Bags containing "Koshihikari" brand rice, which were found to contain radioactive contamination well above legal limits, are displayed in a warehouse in Fukushima city, Fukushima prefecture on Thursday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/17/2011 11:10:50 AM ET 2011-11-17T16:10:50

Japan banned shipments of rice grown near a tsunami-hit nuclear power plant for the first time on Thursday after detecting radiation exceeding the legal limit.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said a sample of rice from a farm contained 630 becquerels of cesium per kilogram.

Cesium is among the radioactive materials that leaked from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant after it was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which left 20,000 people dead or missing.

Under Japanese regulations, rice with more than 500 becquerels of cesium per kilogram is not allowed to be consumed.

Story: Mountains limited spread of fallout from Fukushima

Officials have tested rice at hundreds of spots in Fukushima, and none had previously exceeded the limit.

Fukushima only last month declared that rice grown in the prefecture was safe.

Story: Japan reactor restarts; new glitch hits Fukushima

A BBC report said there have been a series of scares over radiation in food in Japan in recent months — in beef, mushrooms and green tea among other products — but never before in the country's staple, rice.

The report said the discovery highlights the difficulty of tracking the radiation, which has been spread across eastern Japan by wind and rain.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: After Japan's earthquake and tsunami - week 8

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  1. A radiation measuring instrument is seen next to some residents in Kawauchimura, a village within the 12- to 18-mile zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on April 28. Most residents of Kawauchimura have evacuated in order to avoid the radiation, but some remain in the area of their own accord. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A brazier heats the house of Masahiro Kazami, located within a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, April 28. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Volunteers help clean a cemetery at Jionin temple in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, on April 29. Many volunteers poured into the disaster-hit region at the beginning of the annual Golden Week holiday. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Japanese government adviser Toshiso Kosako is overcome with emotion during a news conference on April 29 in Tokyo announcing his resignation. The expert on radiation exposure said he could not stay on the job and allow the government to set what he called improper radiation limits for elementary schools in areas near the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fuel rods are seen inside the spent fuel pool of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor 4 on April 30. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A volunteer girl from Tokyo works to clean the debris of a house in Higashimatsushima, northern Japan, on April 30. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Farmer Tsugio Sato tends to his Japanese pear trees in Fukushima city, May 1. He said he expects to harvest the pears in October. Farmers and businesses face so-called "fuhyo higai," or damages stemming from the battered reputation of the Fukushima brand. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in protective gear receive radiation screening in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, after searching for bodies at an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ruriko Sakuma, daughter of dairy farmer Shinji Sakuma, rubs a cow at their farm in the village of Katsurao in Fukushima prefecture on May 3. Thousands of farm animals died of hunger in the weeks following the quake. (Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Kawauchimura Village in the Radius of 20-30 km from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant
    Koichi Kamoshida / EPA
    Above: Slideshow (9) Devastation in Japan after quake
  2. Image: Magnitude 8.9 Strong Earthquake Jolts Northern Japan
    Xinhua via Getty Images
    Slideshow (46) Triple tragedy for Japan

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