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Tighter cesium standards in practice

April 2, 2012


Prefectures preparing for tighter cesium standards



An NHK survey shows that around half of Japan's prefectures are strengthening measures to inspect food to meet the nation's tighter standards for radioactive cesium in food products.

NHK conducted the survey on 47 prefectures ahead of Sunday's introduction of the new guidelines.

33 prefectures said they will conduct regular inspections. 21 of them said they had installed more devices or established new sections in charge of radiation checks.

Concerns are rising that local authorities may not be able to screen a large enough selection of food samples due to limited resources. Detecting lower doses of radiation takes time. But all the prefectures said they are ready to cope with the new standards.

The government requires 17 prefectures in northeastern Japan to check radiation levels in their farm produce.
11 of the prefectures said their inspections will also cover food products that are not designated by the government.

Tochigi Prefecture said municipalities will conduct additional pre-shipment checks for farm produce in which no radioactive materials have been detected.

Some respondents called for the government to check rice and wheat for radiation, because a large volume of the grains are shipped at one time.

Following the nuclear accident in Fukushima, the government set a temporary permissible level of cesium in vegetables and meat of 500 becquerels per kilogram.
The new limit for general foodstuffs is 100 becquerels per kilogram. Tighter limits are set for baby food and milk, as well as drinking water.



Stricter food safety standards introduced



Local governments across Japan have begun applying the stricter standards for permissible levels of radioactive cesium in food products that came into effect on April 1st.

Under the new rules, common food products, such as vegetables and rice, may contain at maximum 100 becquerels of cesium per kilogram.

The limit for baby food, including formula and milk, is 50 becquerels, while that for drinking water is 10 becquerels.

The new levels are from one-fifth to one-20th of the old amounts deemed safe.

The health ministry has specifically called on 17 prefectures, including Fukushima, Ibaraki and Tokyo, to carry out periodic checks for radiation. Other local governments are initiating safety inspections on their own.

The ministry says that as of 5 p.m. on Monday, 4 prefectures that submitted their inspection results on drinking water and fish found no products that exceeded the new limits.

Monday's inspections have centered on products that have been found to contain cesium of over 100 becquerels in the past. Municipalities are required to check more than 3 samples of any food products found to contain over 50 becquerels of cesium.

Distribution of foods exceeding permissible levels will be stopped by local and central governments.

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