Japan's government says the number of cattle fed with hay contaminated by radiation has doubled, two days after shipments of beef from cows raised near the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant were banned.

Reportedly, there are 1,256 potentially contaminated cows, says Kazutoshi Nobuto, a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The government on July 19 imposed a ban on shipments from Fukushima prefecture north of the capital after finding 637 cattle were fed hay containing radioactive cesium. Supermarkets including Japan’s biggest, Aeon Co., say tainted beef had been sold in Tokyo and other cities.

“This is a major, major problem,” said Goshi Hosono, who is Japan’s food safety minister as well being in charge of the response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The cattle ate tainted straw during a feed-supply shortage after the March earthquake and tsunami. Rice hay produced in Fukushima prefecture was found to contain as much as 690,000 becquerels, exceeding the 300-becquerel limit, according to the local government office. The cattle suspected of being fed the contaminated hay have been shipped to 45 of Japan’s 47 prefectures.

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