Category Archives: Food Additives

G8 Action Network Meeting

International Preparation Meeting about the Lake Toyako G8 Summit

8 March, 2008 in Tokyo

Kurihara Yasushi from the Executive Office asked everyone to give their views and opinions regarding the G8.

The G8 Action Network is an open network composed of individuals and organizations who are questioning the G8 Summit itself. The Network is constructing a framework for exchange of information, designed to support many events and activities against the Summit.

Nations joining the G8 account for only 14% of the world’s population. Also, the G8 Summit is an informal meeting that does not comply with the procedures as requested by international laws. However, what is agreed there defines the movement of the world. For these reasons, we consider the G8 Summit undemocratic.

It was also pointed out that the policies carried out by the G8 are based on neo-liberalism. This is a world view holding that free trade or market liberalization could maximize profits and benefits for people. Neo-liberal proposals by the G8 have brought about many problems around the world to date.

Ogura Toshimaru from People’s Plan Study Group made a presentation about Japan’s government and its G8 activities at Lake Toyako in Hokkaido. He noted that Japan has selected global climate change and environmental problems as principal subjects for the meeting. At the same time, the government has been pushing hard to maintain the road taxes, a revenue source that continues the usual destruction of the environment. In this way, it is clearly putting forward a deceptive proposition for the G8 Summit.

Shimozawa Takashi from JANIC made a presentation about the G8 Summit NGO Forum. Even though environmental issues are at the center, he pointed out that so far, 114 NGOs are participating in the NGO Forum, which was started in January 2007. They have divided their activities into three groups: environment, poverty and human rights. It is their goal to respond to each official communique and have regular meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They also intend to participate in the April, 2008 Sherpa meeting to explain the opinions of the NGOs. There will also be a Tanabata Campaign from April to July, as well as an alternative summit in Hokkaido immediately before the G8 Summit.

Yamaura Yasuaki from Consumers Union of Japan discussed the following points:

1) The G8 has deteriorated problems such as poverty and debt through international institutions including IMF, World Bank, or WTO, in addition to FTA and EPA agreements.

2) The G8 has consistently favoured big agribusiness firms. This is not only breaking the very foundation of small-scale farmers life around the world, but also expanding production of genetically modified crops or animals.

3) The G8 has pushed ahead with deregulations, such as the privatization of public services of rail, mail or medical care. In addition, liberalization of capital investment or finance has led to chaos such as the currency crisis in Asia or the subprime loan scandal.

4) The G8 has produced instability of labour, by relaxing the standards of labour laws.

5) The G8 has put priority on corporate activities and paid no attention to environmental destruction. The G8 policy on climate change will inevitably raise new problems including acceleration of more risky or speculative carbon trading or promotion of nuclear energy.

6) The G8 countries, who formerly built colonies in many regions, bear the responsibility for numerous wars or armed conflicts, and they are major weapons exporting states as well as nuclear-weapon states.

7) In the name of terrorism, the G8 has deprived life and freedom of people and violated human rights by mobilizing domestic or overseas police and military forces, such as in Afghanistan and and Iraq.

8) The G8 never discusses gender issues, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, or socially excluded people.

Please see the G8 Action Network website for news and updates:

http://www.jca.apc.org/alt-g8/

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Official website for the G8 Summit:

http://g8-summit.town.toyako.hokkaido.jp/eng/index.html

Irradiated Food Ingredients

Are irradiated food ingredients imported into Japan? Food Safety Citizen’s Watch has more details with a report from a meeting with government officials and food companies.

Food irradiation using gamma rays etc. damages the DNA of bacteria and has sterilization effects. Food irradiation has also been used to kill insects and stop germination. The efforts to promote food irradiation are supported by Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission. The Ministry for Health, Labour and Welfare is making preparations for allowing the controversial technology to be used on spices by the end of March 2008.

Against this background, it was reported on June 1, 2007, that Kikkoman Corp. had recalled a product called SoyAct, due to the possibility of irradiation in the United States. Importing irradiated food is illegal in Japan. On November 15, a meeting was held at the Japanese Parliament with Assembly Members from several political parties, officials from the Health Ministry, and from the Food Safety Commission. The Food Irradiation Opposition Campaign Group representing consumers who oppose food irradiation was also present at the meeting.

On this occasion, it was pointed out that the biggest problem was to get factual verification whether SoyAct had been irradiated or not in the United States. After Kikkoman had announced its recall, the Ministry of Health sent a letter with questions to the US Food and Drug Administration via the US embassy on June 5, 2007. A formal reply was not received until August 24, but this lacked any details if irradiation had taken place or not. The Japanese government then made a second formal request to get factual verification, but has not yet received any reply from the United States. And only about 2% of the suspect ingredients had been recalled by Kikkoman Corp.

CUJ finds benzene in popular soft drinks

On 13 March, 2007 Consumers Union of Japan announced the results of its investigation into 21 popular soft drinks, vitamin drinks, and supplement drinks. 16 of the tested products were contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical benzene.

The source is thought to be common food additives such as benzoic acids (E201, E211, E212 and E213) used as preservatives. It has been known for a long time that benzoic acid can react with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) when it is added as an anti oxidant in soft drinks, forming benzene.

Consumers Union of Japan wants companies to stop selling such products and immediately stop the simultaneous use of the additives. CUJ also wants the Food Safety Commission and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to take measures to totally ban the simultaneous use of these additives in soft drinks, supplement drinks, cosmetics, etc.

While no safe levels of benzene have been established for soft drinks, different countries have different standards for water. WHO notes that benzene should be avoided whenever technically feasible, and there is no justification for soft drinks or supplement drinks sold to consumers to contain high levels of benzene. In 2006, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare investigated this problem, and said they found levels of benzene above the level of 10 ?g/kg in two cases, but refused to make the other findings public. Consumers Union of Japan demanded in September 2006 that all the findings of benzene should be made public, but MHLW has refused.

Limits on benzene content in drinking water (µg/kg):

WHO 10

Japan 10

South Korea 10

United States 5

Canada 5

European Union 1

The five products with highest levels of benzene in CUJ’s study (µg/kg):

1) Zetsurin Gold 7.4

2) Sapuriku Alpha 2.7

3) Oishii Kurozu Hachimitsu 1.8

4) Fanta Grape 1.7

5) Collagen C 1.7

(Source: Yoshimura Eiji, Shohisha Report No. 1360/1361 Published March 7, 2007)