Monthly Archives: July 2011

Regarding Food Safety

Some General Observations from the Consumer Perspective Regarding Food Safety in Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster on March 11, 2011

20110711 Regarding Food Safety (PDF version)
July 11, 2011

Martin J. Frid
Consumers Union of Japan

The effects of the extraordinary catastrophe on March 11, 2011 in northeastern Japan are difficult to assess even as four months have passed since the 9.0 earth quake and tsunami. In addition, the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, with radiation leaking from at least four reactors, has led to evacuation of areas in Fukushima prefecture, and restrictions on food grown and produced in certain areas. It is a humanitarian disaster that affects all citizens in the Tohoku region, but specifically its farmers, fishermen and food producers; for consumers, it also poses specific challenges that need to be addressed based on what we know so far.

Testing of food at a public hall in Fukushima city, Japan

This paper will deal with general food safety issues in the wake of the crisis. It is not my aim to discuss the details of the radiation as such, or to go into great detail about the safety standards set by the government or others. We know that measurements of radioactive substances can give some information about the general level of contamination, but making specific statements about the safety of food is much more difficult. On-going official measurements are performed in Japan and the results are continuously published by the Ministry of Health and by the local governments. Also, private groups and non-governmental organizations are performing independent measurement and publishing data and analysis. Moreover, other chemical pollution such as dioxins should be carefully monitored. Based on this, what can be concluded about the general level of safety or risk, looking at it from the perspective of consumers? Continue reading Regarding Food Safety

Pollution Problems In Tohoku Need More Attention

Writers Winnifred Bird and Elizabeth Grossman has written a very interesting article about the pollution issues and potential health effects in Tohoku. They note that damage to the region’s industrial facilities has been extensive:

Oil refineries burst into flames in the days after the disaster, sending black smoke billowing into the air. Sewer and gas lines burst, and old electrical equipment containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was washed away. Petro- and agrochemical plants, iron foundries, steel works, and automotive, electronics, food processing, paper, plastics, and pharmaceutical plants were among those that suffered damage. As cleanup continues in the disaster area, questions remain about the fate of chemical contaminants released by these damaged industrial facilities and other sources, and the environmental health hazards they might pose to the hundreds of thousands of people living and working in this area.

Read the entire report for more details.

Bird WA, Grossman E, 2011 Chemical Aftermath: Contamination and Cleanup Following the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. Environ Health Perspect 119(7). (July 1, 2011)