The Japanese government is encouraging the public to eat produce from the northeastern coastline area where foods were contaminated by radiation after the earthquake and tsunami damaged nuclear reactors. The government is promoting the food saying it should be purchased, roasted and devoured, not avoided.
In a promotional event on Friday, politicians including parliamentarians and the foreign minister Takeaki Matsumoto, ate at a restaurant featuring many local dishes from the contaminated area.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has encouraged people to eat food from the disaster-hit areas as a show of support. Meanwhile, Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, went to a farmers market and ate a Fukushima strawberry.
Not all Fukushima food is safe. Many products coming from the nuclear zone are contaminated with cesium- and iodine. Each day on its Web site, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare publishes a list of tested food products, detailing where the items were grown and the level of contamination. The latest list has 98 items, everything from mackerel to rapeseed. Seventy-six of those products had levels of iodine or cesium below restriction level. But several varieties of Fukushima spinach were laced with cesium. And a sand lance fish, caught 22 miles away from the crippled nuclear plant, contained 12,500 becquerels per kilogram of cesium — about 25 times the legal limit.
Original reports after the earthquake were that spinach and milk had radiation levels exceeding the nation’s standards, and shipments were restricted. Since then, radioactive elements have continued to leak from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, leaving vast areas of farmland unusable, perhaps for decades.
Farmers from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures now fit into two categories. Some cannot be helped by promotion of any kind, because they have products that truly are unfit for sale or consumption. The rest have products that pass inspection, but they are finding that wholesalers are reluctant to buy them, figuring shoppers will still resist.
South Korea has temporarily banned vegetables from Fukushima and four other prefectures. China and the United States have banned certain produce and seafood from around the Fukushima area. And earlier this month, India placed a blanket ban on all food from Japan, although it later called that decree “unwarranted” and narrowed the restrictions.
Source: Washington Post