New food safety rules require time for explanations, preparation : Editorial, The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 24, 2011 [Emphasis Added]:
Stricter limits on radiation in food are meant to make the public feel safe and secure–but what if they have the opposite effect? [...]
Careful attention should be paid, however, to the possibility of stricter limits instead heightening the risk of social unease.
If the new criteria are enforced, there may be many cases in which food items with “safe” radiation levels under the current limits would be found to contain “excessive” levels of radioactive cesium. It is therefore feared that shipments of foodstuffs could be suspended one after another.
The current provisional ceilings are already markedly strict as they are one-half to one-fourth the regulatory limits in the United States and European countries. [INCORRECT: See #1 Below] [...]
[T]he quantity of radioactive cesium in food is certain to decline by a wide margin in the year to come. [INCORRECT: See #2 Below]
It is very important for the government to provide detailed explanations of such matters to spread accurate information about food safety among the public. [...]
#1: “Current provisional ceilings are already markedly strict as they are one-half to one-fourth the regulatory limits in the United States and European countries”
EPA lumps these gamma and beta emitters together under one collective MCL [Maximum Contaminant Level], so if you’re seeing cesium-137 in your milk or water, the MCL is 3.0 picocuries per liter; if you’re seeing iodine-131, the MCL is 3.0; if you’re seeing cesium-137 and iodine-131, the MCL is still 3.0.
Japan currently allows 200 becquerels per liter of cesium in water. That equals over 5,400 picocuries per liter, or 1,800 times higher (less strict) than the US’s EPA limit.
#2: “The quantity of radioactive cesium in food is certain to decline by a wide margin in the year”
In an interview last night with ScienceInsider, expedition lead investigator Buesseler explained that in addition to the well-known isotopes iodine-131 and cesium-137, the cruise will measure the spread and bioaccumulation of rarer isotopes such as plutonium, strontium, and tritium, about which little is known. The extensive data set he expects to gather could take up to a year to analyze.
The international team also collected plankton samples and small fish for study. Mr. Buesseler said there were grounds for concern about bioaccumulation of radioactive isotopes in the food chain, particularly in seaweed and some shellfish close to the plants.
Published: December 25th, 2011 at 11:57 am ET