New safety standards for radioactive cesium in food products go into effect

TOKYO —

New tougher standards for radioactive cesium in food and drink products went into effect in Japan on Sunday.

The health ministry says no food or drink product will be permitted to be sold if it has radioactive cesium above the government-set limit.

Under the new rules, the limit for general foodstuffs such as fruit, vegetables, rice, seafood and meat is 100 becquerels of radiation per kilogram, down from 500 prior to April 1. The limit for milk, baby food and infant formula is 50 becquerels per kilogram. For drinking water and tea leaves, it is 10 becquerels per kilogram.

The ministry said local municipalities will be responsible for carrying out testing and that any item measuring above the set standard will not be permitted to be sold.

Since January, the ministry said tests had shown radioactive cesium above 100 becquerels in products from nine prefectures—Miyagi, Iwate, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Yamagata and Chiba.

Some supermarkets, such as Aeon, did not wait for the new regulations and began testing items themselves back in February in order to reassure consumers.

Many consumers, unconvinced by measures taken by the government so far, have steered clear of produce from anywhere near the affected area, leaving farmers with fields full of crops they could not sell and fishermen with catches worth nothing.

Kunio Shiraishi, a former senior researcher at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, said the current regime of sample inspections has been a problem for public confidence and says blanket testing is the way forward.

Japan Today/AFP

  • 3

    some14some

    "Bon Appetit" enjoy with Samurai spirit.... :(

  • 7

    sf2k

    Why would anyone trust it?

  • 6

    zichi

    certainly an improvement and now 1/5th of the international standards used in America and Europe. But theres no requirement to test all foodstuffs which should probably happen at the food store level which should also label the food has been tested and the level of cesium found. But probably a food store wouldnt sell any foodstuffs with any rad levels.

    More difficult problem with processed foods so that will be down to the manufacturer?

    Certain foodstuffs like bady formula should be/must be zero?

  • -8

    japan_cynic

    So they've banned bananas?

  • 11

    buggerlugs

    Too little too late... For the last year I've been branded scum in my local area for refusing food from these areas in kids schools meals and things. Do you think one person will turn and say "oh you were probably right to refuse" I doubt it. I'm just a gaijin.

  • 4

    JapanGal

    It is easy to drink 1 kilogram of milk in a day, but to drink one kilogram worth of tea leaves could take weeks. Why the discrepancy in the becquerels per kilogram? Who invented this idea?

  • 3

    Nicky Washida

    Go ahead and lower the limit all you want, but unless this is actually enforced it means very little.

    I would be delighted to buy produce from anywhere at all including Fukushima to help out the local farmers if they can test their produce and put a label on the packet showing it has been tested and independently verified and what the level is. While I have every sympathy for them, it is no good sitting there complaining that people won`t buy their produce anymore - show it is safe and people will.

    On the list of prefectures: especially Tochigi, Iwate, Miyagi, Gunma, and Yamagata - has anyone heard anything in the news about products from those places being over the limit? And maybe what those products were? I dont recall hearing anything from there.

  • -3

    tmarie

    Well said Nicky regarding your first comment.

    I won't buy anything from the Fukushima/Tohoku area though. Why? I don't trust the government to tell me the truth. They've lied and covered up things for the past year and I don't doubt will continue to do so. Perhaps the food is safe but I won't be risking it with my family. The farmers and the public can blame the government for this, not the consumers.

    About a year too late. The damage has been done. The government needs to make all of this very, very transparent. As in, actually, transparent.

  • 2

    Liberty Joe Lowe

    have to agree with Nicky and zichi, means nothing if not tested. Testing however = time= cost. Can't see the food companies paying for the tests. So who picks up the costs for testing? TEPCO or consumers (us) Probably the latter, but if only i could find proven tested food I would pay the extra for it

  • 8

    kurisupisu

    The title "New safety standards for radioactive cesium in food products go into effect"

    could almost be an oxymoron from 1984.

    What is safe about consuming radioactivity????

    What is safe about being contaminated with radioactivity?

    Radioactive Cesium has a half life of thirty years so where are the studies that show radioactive Cesium to be safe?

    What other substances are in the food that are not being screened?

    When the inhabitants of Japan are living with food contamination on a daily basis, on myriad levels, sensitivities and from various vectors remind me that there is not such a concept as 'safe'.

  • 7

    MustardKing

    So they've banned bananas?

    Do bananas contain radioactive caesium? No they don't. They contain potassium 40. Its not the same. And not all things leak radioactivity the same either. To think they do is to say there is no energy difference between a lit match and a house on fire.

    Now I just wonder what the government is doing about all the other stuff in food, such as radioactive cobalt, strontium, sulfur, tellurium, plutonium, etc. It seems they want to pull the wool over our eyes by harping on Caesium all the time. Does anyone really believe it could be that simple?

  • 4

    gogogo

    The raised it then lowered it, how convenient

  • -1

    japan_cynic

    Ah, so naturally-occurring radiation is good radiation, and man-made radiation is bad radiation? Or what, exactly? Your body's cells certainly don't care too much one way or the other.

  • -5

    Samantha Zoe Aso

    Well said Nicky and Zichi!

    So this is implemented over a year later. A year after we have consumed only god knows how much contaminated food. In my humble opinion, zero level is the only safe level for infants and children. Last June, hubby and I were embroiled in discussions with the shogakko over the issue of produce from that region being served daily in school lunches. We were poo pooed away with a Well,the government hasnt told us it isnt safe yet stock reply. And Well, if you insist in your kids eating a packed lunch during school dinners, they could end up being picked on by other kids. A mere three weeks later,the government banned beef which had been served in our area in school lunches. Way too little,too late. Money reigns supreme here over the next generation`s wellbeing or future.

  • -1

    MustardKing

    Ah, so naturally-occurring radiation is good radiation, and man-made radiation is bad radiation?

    When speaking to a child, I would just answer yes to that question. Before going any deeper, let me ask you: Do you believe in evolution or not? Because that is where I would start with an adolescent.

    For an adult, I give you this link, skip to the end: http://boingboing.net/2010/08/27/bananas-are-radioact.html

    Choose your maturity level.

  • 3

    JapanGal

    @Zoe-chan

    And Well, if you insist in your kids eating a packed lunch during school dinners, they could end up being picked on by other kids

    If you let your kids know that they might be picked on and to expect it, give them lots of ammo to fight back with in words, so they can take those words home.

    Or go to the PTA meetings.

  • -5

    tmarie

    Sam, good for you with going head to head with the school. If more people did this, the problems would get better. Screw getting picked on it if means not getting sick later in life.

  • 2

    Utrack

    The ministry said local municipalities will be responsible for carrying out testing and that any item measuring above the set standard will not be permitted to be sold.

    But how is it possible to do?? I'm just imaging how many food testing machines you would need to test all the products in any given supermarket or convenience store or bakery, restaurant supply stores etc.

  • 4

    gaijinTechie

    The ministry said local municipalities will be responsible for carrying out testing and that any item measuring above the set standard will not be permitted to be sold.

    I didn't see anywhere anything about municipalities being required to test food. Not tested -> Nothing found -> OK for children to eat, this is what Japan has been for a long time, this is how it's going to proceed. National government is toothless in front of the local bureaucrat.

    Utrack, Fuji Electric (as my memory serves) developed a bulk detector able to do just that without the need to destroy the sample, and about 50 of them have already been sold. Tech is not a problem (never has), attitude is. Testing is "bad for local image", or some meaningless dribble like that. Aeon tests without question or prejudice, so I shop at Aeon.

  • -6

    Ivan Coughanoffalot

    I think the main problem with this approach is that many consumers have lost all confidence in what they read on labels. It's not too long ago since we found out that fishing boats were fishing off Fukushima and then sailing down to Chiba to land their haul. Their catch could be labeled "Produce of Chiba" with no difficulty at all (once the customary palms had received their grease, no doubt).

    Why should anyone believe this latest bit of theatre?

  • -3

    japan_cynic

    Net effect of 100Bq of cesium is non-measurable too

  • 4

    YongYang

    Over the long term the acceptability of radioactively contaminated food products and soil has to be based on an estimate of lifetime health risk and the number of persons likely exposed, rather than a safe/not safe concentration threshold. The latter implies that there is a concentration below which there is no concern for future risk from exposure, regardless of the number of people involved. The excess lifetime risk from exposure to ionizing radiation is known to vary considerably with the dose, age at time of exposure, and gender. I believe that informed decisions would be more appropriately based on a discussion of the health risks from potential exposure to radiation rather than a simple comparison to a regulatory concentration threshold.

  • 4

    zichi

    Fish are wild creatures free to roam the seas. Wherever they may be caught and landed we`ll never where they started life and what course they charted before being caught.

  • -5

    Samantha Zoe Aso

    Japan-GalChan!! Totally agree with you. I did mention that I might just be joining my duo for lunch if that scenario unfolded and tackling any comments with the childs parents later. Boy,was I in mama bear mode!

  • -3

    tmarie

    Mama bear mood is a damn good thing when it comes to your child's safety and schools and governments not listening! Shame you had to deal with it all. Sad that none of the other parents joined in with you. Though, not surprised.

  • -2

    Samantha Zoe Aso

    Tmarie- A few parents were outspoken too but sadly, not enough. A lot of them were more worried about their kids being bullied for taking in bentoes. I don't care what people think about me when it comes down to the health of my three gorgeous kids.

  • 3

    TheBigPicture

    Root of the problem is nuclear plants. Solely.

  • 2

    YongYang

    @Ivan. Agreed. Who's thumbing you down, easy to imagine. I for one do not believe, the first causality is always truth. When it comes down to it, money is going to shine in the light, inconveniences such as the health of children will sit in the darkness. For my children the threshold for the 'risk' was immediately absolute zero in regards to possible ingestion of contaminated food / drinks. Why take the risk? You don't.

  • 2

    smithinjapan

    "The ministry said local municipalities will be responsible for carrying out testing and that any item measuring above the set standard will not be permitted to be sold."

    And here's where I stopped reading. The 'municipalities' were responsible before, as well. Remember when towns in Shizuoka and the prefecture itself allowed all the tea leaves with high levels of radiation out? That's what we're going to see here. It's all lip-service with the Japanese government. Pat yourselves on the back for making a law, then don't bother to see it carried out.

  • 1

    cactusJack

    If there are no violations as a result then I would question its effectiveness.

  • 3

    Disillusioned

    The ministry said local municipalities will be responsible for carrying out testing

    Ah ha! And, we believe them because...........?????

    Many consumers, unconvinced by measures taken by the government so far, have steered clear of produce from anywhere near the affected area, leaving farmers with fields full of crops they could not sell and fishermen with catches worth nothing.

    Hello TEPCO!! Are you gonna cough up some bucks for these people? Honestly, I don't think there is enough money in Japan to fully compensate all the victims of TEPCO's ignorance! There were warned many times about the insecurities of the Fukushima plants and did nothing. Seriously, they should be held criminally accountable!

  • 1

    rmistric

    Samantha Zoe AsoAPR. 02, 2012 - 03:20PM JST I don't care what people think about me when it comes down to the health of my three gorgeous kids.

    OK. But, I thought

    Samantha Zoe AsoAPR. 02, 2012 - 01:43PM JST I did mention that I might just be joining my duo for lunch if that scenario unfolded and tackling any comments with the childs parents later. Boy,was I in mama bear mode!

    You don't care what people would think but you just might go to your kid's school and track down and tackle the parents of any other kid who makes fun yours for bringing a bento to school.

  • 0

    YongYang

    @Zichi: Close to 40% of the seafood we eat nowadays comes from aquaculture. AKA; Farmed fish.

  • -6

    Samantha Zoe Aso

    @ mistriac. No, I don't care if I go against the whole 'don't rock the boat shouganai' thing here but I am also not going to allow my kids to be bullied for something so ridiculous as not eating school lunches! In the past, when I've witnessed another child making inappropriate comments to my kids and the parent is present and did nothing, I brought the matter up with said parent. Unfortunately, I am very aware that at times, whilst I might not care what other people think it could, wrongly in my opinion, backfire on my kids.

  • -1

    Blair Herron

    @Samantha

    Please make sure to turn in “給食辞退届”(Kyushoku jitai todoke) to the school. Then you won’t have to pay for school lunch.

  • 1

    gonemad

    The ministry said local municipalities will be responsible for carrying out testing and that any item measuring above the set standard will not be permitted to be sold.

    Local municipalities means those where the food is produced. They have almost no incentive to invest into testing facilities or reject food with too high radiation levels. In case they reject too much, the local producers suffer economically and you can imagine where they put their pressure...

    When food from Tohoku is processed in other areas, nobody will care to check, because those ares are deemed to be safe.

  • 1

    Blair Herron

    I can understand those parents make packed lunch for their kids because they don’t trust the government. My question is what makes them trust their packed lunch they make is safe. All food from Kansai and Kyushu are safe? Not exactly. Even food in Okinawa is affected by radiation. 39,960 Bq/Kg of cesium was measured from the ash of a pizza shop in Okinawa. At least 4 restaurants in Okinawa bought firewood from Fukushima. The prefecture measured 258 Bq/Kg of cesium from the noodle, 1260~8060 Bq/Kg of cesium from ash. A lot of municipalities are carrying out tests for radioactive substances on ingredients used in school lunches. I personally would ask the school to test the school lunch and educate myself to see if they are safe or not. That would protect not only your children but other children as well.

  • -2

    It"S ME

    With the new standards expect food prices and availability to go up and the economy taking another hit as much produce will go unsold and many businesses already saying they will need to close.

    Watched "News Zero" last night and they compared the standards with the EU, US, Ukraine and Belarus. Only the last 2 had tougher standards than Japan. Was interesting that Japan was way lower than the permitted EU & US levels(often up to 5-times lower)

    They also interviewed local testing stations and how the new levels will affect the tests(speed, etc). As the equipment isn't cheap(thus scarce) and each test can take up to 1 hour.

  • 1

    Erik Claus Kryck

    The following are facts, please draw your own conclusion.

    K-40 Naturally occurring half-life = 1.2 billion years decay (89.28%) by beta decay; 1.31 MeV beta particle decay (10.72%) by electron capture with a 1.50 MeV gamma emission;

    Cs-137 Man-made half-life = 30 years decay (94.6%) by beta decay; .51 MeV beta particle with a delayed .66 MeV gamma emission decay (5.4%) by beta decay; 1.17 MeV beta particle

    Typical soil is naturally radioactive with an average activity of 400-500 Bq/Kg, but the range can vary greatly; the main radionuclide is K-40. Bananas can have an activity 80-150 Bq/Kg; the main radionuclide is K-40. Cs and K both act similarly biologically.

    From this data, which radionuclide sounds more harmful? A naturally occurring radionuclide which is all around us, with a much longer half life and more energetic emissions? Or a man-made radionuclide which has contaminated soil, but is less energetic and has a shorter half-life? Both of these radionuclides are beta emitters. Cells do not care where the radiation came from; whether man-made or natural. Both have similar chances of causing cancer.

    Yes, there are areas where Cs-137 concentrations are much higher than background radiation and therefore should have limits in food; but what should these limits be? Zero tolerance could be an answer, but is that realistic? Is it going to significantly reduce health effects? Remember that we are around much Potassium-40 every day, much higher than these strict government guidelines. We live on the soil and eat food where it occurs naturally at levels much higher than 100 Bq/Kg. Should we have a zero-tolerance mind towards naturally occurring radiation as well? You can't say man-made is bad and natural is good, your cells and DNA do not care.

    Think about all this.

  • 0

    struct

    Erik, all potassium contains K-40 'unstable potassium' naturally, where cesium does not . Man made 'radioactive cesium' among many others, are adding to our unavoidable 'nature' levels of radiation, You're right about saying '"You can't say man-made is bad and natural is good, your cells and DNA do not care" Thing is, why should we have to worry about increasing the radiation levels in our bodies, with more unnecessary 'man made radiation. Not every element in our bodies should have to be radioactive, on the account of man made greed.

Login to leave a comment

OR
  • African Speaking Sales manager

    African Speaking Sales manager
    JPC TRADE CO.,LTD. (株式会社JPC)、Tokyo
    Salary: ¥200,000 ~ ¥450,000 / Month Negotiable Basic Salary + Incentives
  • Recruitment / HR Generalist

    Recruitment / HR Generalist
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ
  • Program Assistant

    Program Assistant
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ
  • Portuguese Speaking Sales Manager

    Portuguese Speaking Sales Manager
    Autocom Japan (オートコムジャパン株式会社)、Kanagawa
    Salary: ¥270,000 ~ ¥800,000 / Month Commission Based
  • Interim Administrative Systems Support Lead

    Interim Administrative Systems Support Lead
    Temple University, Japan Campus - テンプル大学ジャパンキャンパス、Tokyo
    Salary: Commensurate with experience plus transportation from/to TUJ

More in National

View all

View all