March 31, 2011— -- Japanese officials are testing the soil contaminated by radiation from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to try to determine whether spring farming can begin as alarmingly high radiation levels were detected outside the evacuation zone today.
"As a ratio, it was about two times higher" than levels at which the agency recommends evacuations," International Atomic Energy Agency Official Elena Buglova said at a news conference.
Meanwhile, radioactivity in the water underneath the Fukushima plant measured 10,000 times the government standard. A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the company does not believe that any drinking water is affected.
Officials said earlier this week that dangerous plutonium was found in soil near the reactors.
Residents within 12 miles of the nuclear plant were evacuated after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami knocked out the reactor's cooling system March 11.
Tokyo Electric Power Co., has been trying to contain the radiation since the twin disasters.
Emergency crews are hoping to put an underwater camera into highly radioactive water found at the crippled plant to try to get a better look at the source of the leak and possibly at the spent fuel rods inside.
Radiation has also been detected in tap water, milk and vegetables, prompting the government to release a long list of banned food products from the region closest to the reactors.
Ninety-nine individually tested foods, including spinach, milk, cabbage and celery, have turned up with some radioactivity.
Worries About Food Safety
The news has left tens of thousands of farmers at risk of losing their livelihoods, and shoppers confused about which products are safe to eat.
Ulrica Marshall and her family recently returned home to Tokyo after fleeing because of radiation fears.
Her local supermarket has put up signs to reassure customers the food is safe, but she's still not sure.
"There's a lack of information flow, so what is perhaps safe today; two days later, oh, sorry, that was actually not true," Marshall said.
Store manager Dale Toriumi told ABC News he spends time every day trying to convince customers the food he sells is OK to eat.
"I'm not a scientist but I drink the milk, I eat the food," he said. "So if it's bad for you, you know it's going to be bad for me as well."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.