Title: Wary, Japanese Take Food Safety Into Their Own Hands
Author: MARTIN FACKLER
Date: January 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm EST
[...] almost a year after a huge earthquake and tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan is still struggling to protect its food supply from radioactive contamination. [...]
The repeated failures have done more than raise concerns that some Japanese may have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation in their food, as regrettable as that is. They have also had a corrosive effect on public confidence in the food-monitoring efforts, with a growing segment of the public and even many experts coming to believe that officials have understated or even covered up the true extent of the public health risk in order to limit both the economic damage and the size of potential compensation payments.
Critics say farm and health officials have been too quick to allow food to go to market without adequate testing, or have ignored calls from consumers to fully disclose test results. And they say the government can no longer pull the wool over the public’s eyes, as they contend it has done routinely in the past. [...]
Mitsuhiro Fukao, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo
- “Since the accident, the government has tried to continue its business-as-usual approach of understating the severity of the accident and insisting that it knows best”
- “But the people are learning from the blogs, Twitter and Facebook that the government’s food-monitoring system is simply not credible”
Ichio Muto, farms organic mushrooms in Nihonmatsu
- “No one trusts the national government’s safety standards”
- “The only way to win back customers is to tell them everything, so they can decide for themselves what to buy”
- Mr. Muto knows firsthand how painful such full disclosure can be: he destroyed his entire crop of 110,000 mushrooms after tests revealed high radiation levels
Forced to Keep Farming
- Officials admit that many people question the wisdom of allowing farms so near the plant to operate, but they say that once they stop farming in an area because of radiation, it will take years to persuade the public to allow them to start again.
- Even before the discovery of tainted rice in November, they said, the government’s current policy had left [farmers] no choice but to keep farming. Now, they said, they face economic ruin because no one will buy their rice.
- “This happened because those up above did not want to pay compensation,” said a 74-year-old rice farmer, who gave only her surname, Sato, for fear that further association with radiation could spell the end of her farm, which has been in the family for six generations. “We did what they told us to do, and now we are being wiped out.”
Sachiko Sato, a founder of the Network of Parents to Protect Children from Radiation, known as Mamorukai
- “If the government treated us like adults, there would be no need for Mamorukai”
- “Japan must build an entirely new food-monitoring system that we average people can really trust”
Read the report here
Published: January 21st, 2012 at 5:59 pm ET