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Radiation Bankrupts Japan Cattle Ranch With $5.6 Billion in Debt

Aug. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Agura Bokujo, operator of a cattle ranch north of Tokyo, became Japan’s biggest corporate failure this year after consumer fears over beef contaminated with radiation damaged sales, Tokyo Shoko Research said.

The closely held company in Tochigi prefecture had 433.1 billion yen ($5.6 billion) in liabilities, Tokyo Shoko said on its website today, citing Agura’s application for bankruptcy protection on Aug. 9.

In its earnings report for the year ended March 2011, Agura had liabilities of 62 billion yen, said Kazufumi Masuda, a spokesman for Tokyo Shoko, which tracks corporate bankruptcy data.

Radiation from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant has entered Japan’s food chain in recent months, contaminating products from beef to milk and fish. Cattle with unsafe levels of radiation have been found in four Japanese prefectures after they were fed with hay contaminated with as much as 690,000 becquerels a kilogram, compared with a government safety standard of 300 becquerels.

The discovery rattled consumer confidence after the government, which had assured shoppers that food sold in the market was safe, confirmed radiation contaminated beef had been sold in stores. Companies affected included Aeon Co., Japan’s biggest supermarket chain.

Sales at Agura Bokujo were damaged by the discovery, Tokyo Shoko said in a statement last week, and followed a drop in demand since the discovery of foot-and-mouth disease in southern Miyazaki prefecture last year, the statement said.

Food containing radioactive cesium or iodine that exceeded the official standards has been found as far as 360 kilometers (224 miles) from the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station, which began leaking radiation after the station was damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Japan’s government is still trying to put together a centralized system to check for radiation contamination of food, leaving local authorities and farmers conducting voluntary tests.

To contact the reporters on this story: Go Onomitsu in Tokyo at gonomitsu@bloomberg.net; Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at sbiggs3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kyung Bok Cho at kcho7@bloomberg.net

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