China and South Korea announced on Monday they will toughen checks of Japanese food for radioactivity, hours after the World Health Organization said the detection of radiation in some food in Japan was a more serious problem than it had expected.
China will monitor food imported from Japan for signs of radiation, state news agency Xinhua reported, citing the national quality watchdog, while South Korea will widen radiation inspections to dried agricultural and processed food from fresh agricultural produce.
The WHO said it had no evidence of contaminated food spreading internationally, but officials in Japan's Ibaraki and Fukushima prefectures, the areas closest to the earthquake-damaged Daiichi nuclear plant, found higher than usual levels of iodine in samples of spinach and milk.
"Quite clearly it's a serious situation," Peter Cordingley, Manila-based spokesman for WHO's regional office for the Western Pacific, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.
"It's a lot more serious than anybody thought in the early days when we thought that this kind of problem can be limited to 20 to 30 kilometers," he said.
There is no evidence of contaminated food from Fukushima prefecture, where the plant is located, reaching other countries, he said.
"We can't make any link between Daiichi and the export market. But it's safe to suppose that some contaminated produce got out of the contamination zone," he said.
Japan's health ministry has urged some residents near the plant to stop drinking tap water after high levels of radioactive iodine were detected.
Cases of contaminated vegetables and milk have already stoked anxiety despite assurances from officials that the levels are not dangerous. The government has prohibited the sale of raw milk from Fukushima prefecture and spinach from a nearby area.
Meanwhile, Israeli doctors sent by the Foreign Ministry and Home Front Command have reached the city of Kurihara where some of the Tsunami victims are concentrated. The doctors came to review the situation in order to decide how many doctors and medical equipment should be sent.
It is estimated that an Israeli clinic will be set up in Japan in the coming week.
Ronen Medzini contributed to this report
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