24 Février 2012
February 24, 2012
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan will enforce stricter limits on radioactive cesium found in food, which come between one-20th and a quarter of the current provisional limits depending on food categories, from April 1 when the new fiscal year begins, the health ministry formally decided on Friday.
The new ceilings, which will come more than a year after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crippled last March began leaking radiation, are set at 100 becquerels per kilogram of cesium for regular food items such as meat, vegetables and fish, 50 becquerels for milk and infant food, and 10 becquerels for drinking water.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry held firm to its original proposal for the new limits, despite some criticisms that they are too harsh and could hurt food producers. Meanwhile, citizen's groups have called for even tighter regulations.
The new figures compare with the present ceilings of 500 becquerels per kg for a broad category of regular food items and 200 becquerels for milk, dairy products and water. Japan currently does not have a specific category for infant food.
Grace periods will be given to certain food items to avoid confusion and chaos among consumers. For example, application of the new limits on rice and beef will be postponed until Oct. 1, considering their production and distribution cycles.
New radiation safety standards for food endorsed
The Japanese government will apply stricter standards for permissible levels of radioactive cesium in food products starting in April.
The new standards were officially endorsed by a health ministry advisory council on Friday.
Under the new standards, food products will be allowed to contain up to 100 becquerels of cesium per kilogram. That's 80 percent less than the current permissible level.
Baby food and milk will be permitted to contain 50 becquerels and drinking water, 10 becquerels.
An education ministry panel on radiation endorsed the new standards last week, but suggested that the permissible standards for general food products will ensure the safety of babies without setting specific limits for baby food and milk.
At Friday's meeting, members of the health ministry panel said stricter standards for baby food will help to ease consumers' concerns. Some members also called for all local governments to carry out thorough checks under the new standards.
The standards will take effect in April, but transitional measures will be applied for rice, beef and soy beans.