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