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2011年8月20日 (土)

コメ放射能検査 二段構えで日本の主食を守れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 20, 2011)
2-step test to protect Japan's staple food
コメ放射能検査 二段構えで日本の主食を守れ(8月19日付・読売社説)

The green ears of rice glitter in rays of summer sunlight in paddies around the country.

However, this year's harvest season is likely to be a worrying time for rice farmers as well as consumers.

Under the government's instructions, Tokyo and 16 prefectures, including Fukushima and Miyagi, are to examine whether rice harvested in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant contains radioactive substances.

Chiba Prefecture, which harvests rice ahead of the other 16 areas, has already begun inspections.

Anxieties about food safety spread among consumers after beef contaminated with radioactive cesium was marketed.

The central government and concerned local governments must conduct thorough inspections so consumers can eat rice without fear.
If contaminated rice is discovered, the governments must make every possible effort to prevent it from being marketed.

Rice inspections comprise two steps.

First, preharvest rice is sampled and tested in villages, towns and cities where high levels of radioactive cesium are reported in the soil and air.

Second, in municipalities where high levels of radioactive cesium are detected in rice, much more stringent inspections are carried out on harvested rice sampled in more locations.


Careful inspections essential

If radioactive cesium exceeding the government-set safety limit is found, the rice is banned from shipping and disposed of.
Compensation for this rice will be claimed from Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled nuclear power plant.

The total production of rice in Tokyo and the 16 prefectures is 4.6 million tons, half of the national production.

If the safety of Japan's staple food is threatened, the effect will be immeasurable.

In the beef case, authorities were slow in taking countermeasures.
The beef was found to be contaminated only after the meat had already been shipped.

Unlike cattle, rice does not have individual identification numbers.
If it is marketed, there is no way to trace contaminated rice.

This means that rice must be inspected much more carefully.

However, prefectural inspection institutes already have enough on their hands, as they have to deal with contaminated beef and rice straw.

If inspections take time, a significant delay in rice shipments could result.

Regardless, priority must be placed on safety.


Easy explanations needed

The rice distribution system in Japan is very complicated, and due consideration should be paid to the management system if contaminated rice is found.

Three years ago there was a case in which imported rice containing the residue of an agricultural chemical exceeding the safety limit and toxic mold was sold illegally to third parties as edible rice.

Authorities must never make such a mistake again.

Some consumers voiced concern that they would not feel safe even if the rice contains radioactive substances below the government-set limit.

Due to these fears, consumers want to purchase rice harvested last year, before the nuclear accident.

In a report by an international organization on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in the former Soviet Union in 1986, radioactive cesium was detected in the soil, but this did not cause any health problems.

The government must explain to consumers in layman's terms the safety of rice based on scientific grounds to prevent them from overreacting to radioactive contamination.

We expect consumers also to respond calmly to the situation.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 19, 2011)
(2011年8月19日01時14分  読売新聞)


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