Home > Asia Pacific, Food, Japan, Special Report > Japanese government wants you to eat radioactive food: Part III

Japanese government wants you to eat radioactive food: Part III

May 8, 2012

This is employee uses a Geiger counter to test for radiation, which is not a very efficient way to measure radiation in food. Source: AP.

This is part III of a special report. Part II is available here.

This is not to say foreign food is unavailable. It is. But in many cases it is prohibitively expensive or extremely difficult to find. This is due in part to the desire to protect domestic industry from having to compete with foreigners on some of the same food items. So while it is easy to purchase foreign wines, Japan cannot restrict them too much because their own domestic production cannot supply demand. When it comes to rice, a product grown in abundance in Japan, it is virtually impossible to find foreign produced rice in Japanese supermarkets. This is not limited to food, and nations have complained about these practices for years (see here & here). As an example one might recall the dispute between the Clinton Administration and Japan with regard to the difficulty American car manufacturers had in accessing the Japanese market (see here).

If anyone has a history of restricting foreign imports it is Japan. Even if the Japanese are correct, they will be seen as hypocritical in the extreme for going to the WTO to lodge a complaint. Unlike some of the other disputes, radiation is a serious problem. Shortly after the Fukushima disaster the IAEA warned about risks associated with iodine. There was also the WHO spokesman who warned that “it’s a lot more serious than anybody thought in the early days when we thought this kind of problem can be limited to 20 or 30 kilometers.”  The WHO specifically warned people to avoid affected foods like meat, eggs and leafy vegetables near the Fukushima plant. “Eating foods containing radioactive materials could increase the risk of certain types of cancers in the future,” remarked Ben Embarek, a food safety expert with the WHO. Iodine is not a problem today, but caesium-134, 137 and a whole host of other isotopes like strontium, plutonium etc – the majority of which are not even being checked for – are. When it comes to fish, for example, the Japanese only report figures for caesuim-137 and iodine (iodine is not present anymore anyway). But that does not mean there is no strontium-90. If serious studies were done on fish by the Japanese government, the results might not be so savoury. Even the highly criticised and clearly inadequate studies they are carrying out only serve to show that the majority of fish & sea life tested contain measurable levels of radiation.

In the big picture, it was not just foreigners who stopped shipments of Japanese food. It was the Japanese government itself, though in case after case only after it was unable to hide the results of beef, spinach or other embarrassing results. In other words, the Japanese had to restrict radioactive foods to their own domestic market for the very same health concerns foreigners had (here). Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told the public, “The vegetables will cause no immediate health problems even if temporarily eaten now.” Look at the phrase “immediate health problems.” What does it suggest? If the affects are not “immediate” then they are either non-existent or long-term.  Those who eat them will one day find the answer –  they are the guinea pigs.

To be continued in Part IV

Civis Journal

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