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Saturday, April 21, 2012

消費者の選択権を奪う農水省「独自基準やめろ」通達 Food Ministry tells private sector to adhere to the government standard of radiation in food

Scroll down for English. 英語情報とコメントを追加しました。

食品中の放射性物質に係る自主検査における信頼できる分析等について (平成24年4月20日付け24食産第445号農林水産省食料産業局長通知)(PDF:442KB)
食品中の放射性物質に係る自主検査における信頼できる分析等について (平成24年4月20日付け24食産第445号農林水産省食料産業局食品小売サービス課長・食品製造卸売課長通知)(PDF:252KB)








From Mainichi Shimbun report on April 21.
Farm ministry asks food industries to abide by gov't-imposed allowable radiation limits

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has sent a notification to 270 organizations related to the supermarket, restaurant and other food-related industries, calling for them to abide by government-imposed allowable limits for radiation in their products. There are cases of food-related and other industries setting their own standards that are even tougher than the government-imposed limits, and therefore the agriculture ministry said, "The national standards fully ensure safety. Different standards create confusion." With respect to radioactive cesium in food items, the government set new allowable limits in April at 100 becquerels per kilogram of regular food and 50 becquerels per kilogram of milk and baby food. Suggesting that the government-imposed limits are strict by international standards, the agriculture ministry called for food-related industries to apply the government-imposed standards even to voluntary checks on their food products for radiation in a bid to avoid confusion that could be caused by excessive restrictions. Stressing the need for scientifically reliable analysis even for voluntary inspections, the agriculture ministry has been advising food-related companies to use organizations that are registered with the ministry to conduct independent inspections of their food products. The agriculture ministry has come under criticism and complaints from food-related industries for sending the notification. The Seikatsu Club Consumers' Co-operative Union, which sells and delivers food products to its members across the country, has been inspecting almost all products it handles for radiation, and it set its own standards that are stricter than the national standards on April 1. Hiroshi Tsuchida, in charge of product quality control at the co-operative union, said, "It is the consumers' right to select safer food, and the notification is too demanding. The national standards are not considered reassuring in the first place, and therefore if they are forced upon us, the government will lose all the more confidence." Yukiguni Maitake Co., a major manufacturer and seller of mushrooms in Niigata Prefecture, set its own allowable radiation limit at 40 becquerels per kilogram of mushrooms in November last year and lowered it to 20 becquerels this March. The company said it has not confirmed the receipt of the notification from the agriculture ministry. But it said it would continue to use its own standard. "We understand the importance of protecting producers, but our company has received requests from consumers to lower our standard. We have a responsibility to meet the needs of consumers," an official with the company said.

(Mainichi article end) 
By what right would the government deprive citizens of the right of choice? The government does not issue such directives to food growers and manufacturers that produce foods with low or no pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and additives. Why would it force retailers and consumers to strictly abide by the "allowable" standards only for radiation in food? 

People should be able to make informed choices and retailers and manufacturers should have the right to cater to consumers' needs. Those who live in Fukushima and other contaminated areas may wish to minimize their radiation intake, since they already have taken in more radiation than those in other areas, since 311. Those who eat more of certain foods than other foods may wish to minimize radiation intake from those particular foods. Rice and soy beans are good examples. Many in Japan eat rice and soy beans in each meal, and may wish to eat those foods with as low radiation as possible in order to minimize the total intake. Government and industry SELL food. Consumers EAT food. Those who EAT the food should be able to know and choose what to eat, and what standards of radiation in food they can tolerate.

Another government-oriented (not consumer-oriented) approach in the new standards is the 50 Bq/Kg standard for baby food. Has the government ever given thought to the fact that babies eat foods other than those with "baby food" labels?  Many babies eat from the family members' plates, and food specially prepared by their caregivers. Provided that some parents and caregivers trust and follow the government standard of "allowable radiation" (many don't), how can they obtain ingredients below the baby's standard (50 Bq/kg) when all foods up to 100 Bq/kg are allowed on store shelves?

The government directive orders citizens to be irradiated as the government regulates, without choice and without knowledge. We should strongly protest such a move, and the food growers and manufacturers should stand firm in their principles of radiation protection and meeting consumers' needs, for the health of people, particularly children. @PeacePhilosophy

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