Radiation testing on school lunches issues

Radiation testing on school lunches differs” The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jan. 29, 2012)
According to data compiled by the Fukushima prefectural board of education, 33 of the 59 municipalities in the prefecture test school lunches for radiation.FUKUSHIMA–Municipali(Jan. 29, 2012)ties are carrying out tests for radioactive substances on ingredients used in school lunches, but parents are worried whether their children are adequately protected as the tests are conducted in various ways.

Using two radiation measuring instruments, the Koriyama municipal government checks school lunches only once a week, although ingredients left over from lunches on the other four school days also are tested. This means that some tests are carried out after the schoolchildren have eaten their lunch.

On Monday, the Sukagawa municipal government will use five measuring instruments to test ingredients two days before lunches are served to children.

The city has set an original limit of up to 10 becquerels per kilogram for lunch ingredients, much stricter than the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry’s new limit for general food items of 100 becquerels per kilogram, which is scheduled to be introduced in April.

Parents are puzzled why some local governments conduct tests after the children have already eaten lunch, while others do so before lunch.

“It’s strange why municipalities use different testing methods,” a 37-year-old woman living in Koriyama said. “They should test the ingredients before children have lunch.”

The woman, who has a 7-year-old daughter, said that in the wake of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant she stopped her daughter from drinking milk with her school lunch.

The Koriyama official said it could not conduct tests before children ate lunch because of the shortage of measuring instruments. But it will start conducting prelunch tests in late February after it purchases two more instruments.

The frequency of tests and imposing becquerel limits on school food also differ depending on the municipality.

The city of Fukushima, which conducts tests just before food is cooked, carries out tests in turn among four school lunch centers and 26 facilities, including primary and middle schools.

The Fukushima municipal government conducts tests about once a week, and has set a limit of 350 becquerels per kilogram.

In Minami-Soma, where part of the city is designated as a no-entry zone, the municipal government started carrying out tests on five school days after lunch from Jan. 16.

The Tomioka municipal government in neighboring Gunma Prefecture is conducting tests only twice a month for cooked school lunch dishes as its agricultural products are checked beforehand to ensure they are safe.

Shinobu Iida, 45, a representative of the group Fukushima Mothers Meeting, said: “Tests should be conducted before schoolchildren eat their lunches. If a strict limit of less than 5 becquerels is introduced, which is the standard for other nations, Fukushima-made agricultural products could be used without fear.”

Ryugo Hayano, an expert in nuclear physics at the University of Tokyo, said: “Tests on ingredients before meals engender a sense of safety, but tests after a meal can help prevent long-term internal exposure. With continuous tests on the actual quantity of food served in school dishes, it’s possible to gather data about how much children should eat.”

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