Hello to our regular readers and radiation and foodwatchers,

I’m sure you know by now from the news that the Tokyo radiation scare turns out to be radium stored under house floor and that with the Radium-filled bottles removed from Tokyo home; local radiation levels drop (Mainichi), that scare of the week is basically over. The bottles and test tubes emitting high radiation uncovered from the house in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, contained radium-226, a naturally occurring ingredient used in luminous paint, watches and hotspring additives.

But the current scare regarding strontium finds beyond Fukushima is now currently causing public concern: Radioactive strontium found in Yokohama gutter(Asahi, Oct 16).

In other news, now that radiation has been officially put on the national curriculum as a topic to be studied, teachers with their already heavy workloads, are none too thrilled, expressing their Doubts over how to teach radiation (Yomiuri, Oct.16, 2011). Many schools in Fukushima still limit time spent outdoors by students (Mainichi, Oct 15) despite the decontamination efforts having been carried out. According to Yomiuri news article “Students to receive radiation info booklets” (Oct.15), the “government plans to print 80,000 copies of the materials, including the instruction manual for teachers, and distribute a copy to all public and private schools as early as later this month” and that the “new materials for primary school students are 18 pages long, while those for middle and high school students are 22 pages each”. A Radiation booklet plan gets mixed reception (Yomiuri, Oct. 16, 2011) with one criticism being that the Kids’ texts [are] vague on nuke crisis perils(Japan Times).

On to some information of significance to our readers …  I hope that some of you were able to catch this morning’s Asaichi programme which focused on the key concern of those of us resident in Kanto – food safety, internal contamination from food.
The programme broadcasted today on terrestrial TV was a feature that originated in the queries of worried viewers and the Asaichi team took an investigative approach to uncover whether the food consumed by its viewers on a daily basis is safe (using range of random Asaichi viewer’s food samples). The programme began by reviewing the range of questions/issues raised – fairly similar to those we’ve been churning up here and on our EIJ discussion forum – like how much total contamination is turning up in our cooked food;  what about the food that slips through the inspection net; how much trust can we put on news and press releases about food declared safe; what are appropriate food safety limits; and to what extent does meticulous food avoidance from “contamination zones” help?
Then Asaichi asked various chosen families to set aside daily sample meals for the duration of the 7 day (1week) period targeted for testing – it chose several families based on these profiles:
1. Family from Fukushima eating only local foods, not practising (food source avoidance)
2. Family from Edogawa-ku, Tokyo practising meticulous avoidance of food from contaminated areas, eating only food produce from Kansai, Hokkaido and overseas products.
3. Family from Meguro, Tokyo, not practising food avoidance, consuming food from Kanto.
4. Family from Hiroshima eating only locally sourced or produced foods.
5. Family from Sapporo, Hokkaido who eat only locally sourced or produced foods.
6. Family from Osaka eating only Kansai produce.
7. Farming family in Fukushima located around 60 km away from the nuclear reactors, consuming its own food produce and drinking and cooking from its own spring water.
The food samples were based on the actually cooked three meals a day, for a week period to allow for the calculation of the total amount of internal food contamination a person might ingest in the course of a year.  The food samples were then sent to the university lab for testing using their high resolution germanium semiconductor detector to test for radioactive isotopes – you can find more info on official food inspection agencies here. There are only a few of these high-grade machines in Japan – test results of the sample took 2 hours  (processing-prep of the food samples takes longer) but cheaper smaller machines are now being introduced for use by the food industry costing 2,200,000-1,450,000 yen each.
The test results that came back (and posted below) were surprising:
1. Family from Fukushima eating only local foods 0 bq (becquerels) detected in all food samples tested for the entire 7 day duration
2. Family from Edogawa-ku, Tokyo practising meticulous avoidance of food from contaminated areas 4.05 bq/kg (4.1 bq carried to the nearest)  of cesium 134 was detected from 1 day among the 7 days’ food samples tested
3. Family from Meguro, Tokyo, not practising food avoidance, consuming food mainly from Kanto.  9 bq/kg of cesium 137 was detected from 1 day among the 7 days’ food samples tested
4. Family from Hiroshima eating only locally sourced or produced foods. 0 bq
5. Family from Sapporo, Hokkaido who eat only locally sourced or produced foods. 5.7 bq Cesium 134
6. Family from Osaka eating only Kansai produce. 3.4 bq Cesium 134
7. Farming family in Sukagawa, Fukushima  located around 60 km away from the nuclear reactors, consuming its own food produce and drinking and cooking from its own spring water. 3.66 bq /kg (3.7 bq carried to the nearest) Cesium 134
(My notes: Cesium 134 has a half life of 2 years / Cesium 137 – 30 years)

調査の結果は?

今回、放射性セシウムが検出されたのは、7家族中、5家族。それぞれ一週間のうち1日から検出されました。
・札幌 セシウム134・・・5.69ベクレル/キログラム
・須賀川 セシウム134・・・3.66ベクレル/キログラム
・江戸川 セシウム134・・・4.05ベクレル/キログラム
・目黒 セシウム137・・・8.97ベクレル/キログラム

郡山と廿日市では、今回測った一週間では、放射性セシウムは全く検出されませんでした。
また、水と今年の新米は、各地で別に測定しましたが、今回の調査では放射性セシウム

Asaichi then compared the figures to those of Japanese official figures on food limits:

≪食品の暫定基準値≫ 放射性セシウム

・飲料水、牛乳・乳製品・・・200ベクレル
・野菜類、穀類、肉・卵・魚、その他・・・500ベクレル
(1キログラム もしくはリットルあたり

Interim standard value of Radioactive cesium in Food:
- Drinking water, milk and dairy products ... 200 Bq
- Green stuff, cereals, meat, an egg and a fish, others ... 500 Bq
(Per 1kg  or liter)
What do these figures mean?  And what are the implications of the data from the Asaichi report?
I suggest a comparison of the figures obtained above with the data on food limits below which are not from the Asaichi programme but from the Foodwatch page. “foodwatch is a non-profit and independent organisation that draws public attention to practices in the food industry that are not in the interests of consumers. foodwatch fights for the right of consumers to honestly know what they are buying and to enjoy good food that is healthy and uncontaminated”:
Note: The EU’s permissible limits for radioactive contamination in products are compared with Japan’s and Foodwatch’s as follows:
Table 1: Total cesium limits in September 2011
                                                                                                            Baby food and milk products  | Other foodstuffs
EU limits for imports from countries outside the EU                                      370 Bq/kg   | 600 Bq/kg
EU limits for imports from Japan                                                                            200 Bq/kg   | 500 Bq/kg
Japanese limits                                                                                                                200 Bq/kg   | 500 Bq/kg
Limits called for by foodwatch/IPPNW                                                                       8 Bq/kg  | 16 Bq/kg
As a consequence of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the European Union set maximum limits
From the above, one can conclude that so far the tested samples come very well within the limits called for by foodwatch.
In the last segment of the feature, the ASAICHI team took the results of their testing to the Deputy-Director, BELRAD Institute, ULADZIMIR BABENKA ウラジーミルバベンコ who wrote a book on the need to protect children from radiation contaminated foods, that has now been translated into Japanese – titled, 自分と子どもを放射能から守るには   Amazon page here, plus more on Youtube – a Japan National Press Club seminar about Babenka and his work.  The book covers research beginning from after the Chernobyl incident, that was carried out for 6 years.
Babenka was shown reading the results of the Asaichi report and interviewed by Asaichi. Babenka said he thought based on the figures from the results of the sample testing, Japanese parents should have no concerns, worries about consuming locally produced food.
There was further discussion and debate on the programme, and the wrapup concluded that while the results of the testing was reassuring, regular longterm testing and inspections would be required for food produced in Fukushima and the Kanto region because conditions could change due to rainfall and other factors. It was also suggested that more steps should be taken to ensure the safety of kyushoku schoollunches. Also, that it would be desirable to widen the testing to more categories of food as well as have different limits set on different foods as had been done in the Belarus case – as per the Belarussia food limits itemized for different foods (taken from the NHK Asaichi page – source Babenka’s book) below:

The radiation expert on the Asaichi forum praised the Asaichi effort for today’s report, and said that the investigative report should be replicated on a larger and more detailed scale and the testing of samples on a longer term basis and at constant intervals.

My search on Babenka has not turned up any information in English other than the above and the Mainichi news article excerpted immediately below:

Japan’s food radiation limits set too high: Belarussian scientist (Mainichi, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2011)

(Mainichi Japan) October 13, 2011

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A visiting Belarusian scientist, who has offered advice to residents affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, said Wednesday that he believes Japan’s food radiation limits have been set too high and urged the nation to lower them to realistic levels.

Vladimir Babenko, deputy director of the Belrad Institute of Radiation Safety in the former Soviet republic, told a press conference in Tokyo that he cannot understand the thresholds designated by the Japanese government for food and beverage products, saying they are much higher than Belarusian standards.

Babenko also criticized the Japanese government for its failure to set special standards for children to better protect them from internal radiation exposure.

For example, he pointed out that the limit for radioactive cesium in 1 kilogram of drinking water is set at 200 becquerels in Japan, 20 times as high as the maximum allowable level in Belarus.

The scientist is visiting Japan to promote the Japanese translation of his book about radiation protection. He is scheduled to make a speech in Fukushima Prefecture on Friday.

More related info re: Babenka and his book:

Radiation Safety Institute Berurado HP | http://www.belrad-institute.org/ | HP Masako Tatsumi “Room of Belarus” http://belapakoi.s1.xrea.com/ |  HP Masako Tatsumi “Blog Room in Belarus” http://blog.goo.ne.jp/nbjc | 世界文化社 “to protect yourself from radiation and children” transl. pagehttp://www.sekaibunka.com/book/exec/cs/11318.html

  • There are internationally agreed Codex Guideline Levels (GLs) for radionuclide levels in internationally traded food following a nuclear or radiological emergency. These GLs are published by the Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission.
  • The GLs state that, “as far as generic radiological protection of food consumers is concerned, when radionuclide levels in food do not exceed the corresponding Guideline Level, the food should be considered as safe for human consumption. When the Guideline Levels are exceeded, national governments shall decide whether and under what circumstances the food should be distributed within their territory or jurisdiction.
  •  GLs for radionuclide levels can be found in the Codex General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food and Feed – (CODEX STAN 193-1995)
[My notes: Fishery agencies food safety standards of Japan are same as EU’s, and a lot higher than those of many countries:see http://www.jfa.maff.go.jp/e/secure/pdf/110630.pdf Samplings are being carried out on a weekly basis at major ports for each major target species see results posted at the Fisheries ministry page – data for Oct 2011 here.

 

Please find our latest updates on the Fukushima crisis here.

That’s the end of our update today,

Aileen Kawagoe

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