Health Ministry Steps Up Snap Inspections Of
Food For Radiation
Fukushima Power Plant
EMF Protection Devices
Magnetic Field Detector
September 14, 2011 |
By NOBUYA SAWA
The health ministry has stepped up its snap inspections
of food products sold at supermarkets and elsewhere for
possible contamination by radioactive substances that may
have slipped through checkups by local governments.
Rieko Matsuda, director of the Division of Foods of the
National Institute of Health Sciences, and another female
employee of the NIHS, are part of this process.
On Sept. 6, they changed from their white lab uniforms
into plain clothes to focus on fish at a supermarket in
Tokyo. They were checking out places of origin, not the
prices, of the products that included young yellowtail from
Iwate Prefecture, cut and dried Alfonsino from Miyagi
Prefecture, and blue mackerel from Shizuoka Prefecture.
"Have we screened fish from this region?" they kept
asking each other, relying on their memory.
At the beef section, they had planned to buy products
from the Tohoku and Kanto regions, but they gave up on that
idea because the labels were not specific, saying only
"produce of Japan."
At the fruit and vegetable sections, they added a melon
from Aomori Prefecture and "shiitake" mushrooms from Akita
Prefecture to their shopping baskets. They bought 22 items.
Supermarkets are not their only hunting ground. They go
to antenna shops to buy local specialties and sometimes
purchase produce online.
Local governments are in charge of screening food
products for radioactive contamination. However, the
frequency and the selection of target items may differ
depending on the inspecting bodies.
Generally, such inspections are infrequent and conducted
only on samples extracted before they are circulated. There
is a high chance of contaminated food products slipping
through if the selection of target items is patchy.
The health ministry has requested the NIHS to check out
food items produced within the jurisdiction of local
governments that have modest inspection records. The
ministry has appropriated about 15 million yen ($190,000)
for that purpose. For the time being, 200 items will be
screened every month.
The inspections have already produced results. On Sept. 2
and 5, radioactive cesium exceeding the government's safety
standard was detected in refined tea leaves from Chiba and
When excess radioactivity is found in a food product, all
goods produced or manufactured in the same locality and
during the same period are subject to a recall. A shipment
ban may be imposed if contamination is discovered in more
than one locality.
"The central government involvement in the screening of
food products in circulation will prompt local governments
to step up their own inspection efforts," said a health
ministry official. "I think it also helps to enhance