Japan’s New Limits For Radiation in Food: 20 Times Stricter Than American and EU Standards

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    A helpful Yomiuri chart shows the Japanese government’s proposal for new limits on radioactive cesium in food items, comparing it to current limits for Japan, the United States, and the European Union:

    The limits are meant to be extremely cautious, assuming that almost all foods will contain some level of contamination. The goal is to avoid a cumulative exposure of one millisievert of radiation a year – 1/100th of the amount of exposure that is known to increase cancer risk:

    The new limits were calculated by working backward from the figure of 1 millisievert of radioactive cesium, which is the maximum allowable annual dietary intake for an ordinary person, according to the ministry.

    The 1-millisievert annual limit was set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a body linked to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization, which is responsible for setting international food safety standards.

    The Codex’s highest permissible level of radioactive cesium for general foodstuffs is 1,000 becquerels per kilogram, or 10 times the level now proposed by the health ministry.

    This is because the ministry has assumed the “contamination ratios” of food, or the ratios of radiation-contaminated food compared to all food on the market, to be significantly higher than the ratios adopted by food-related international organizations, ministry officials said.

    So far, tests have found in most parts of Japan does not contain detectable levels of cesium. But if somebody were to eat only food containing 100 Bq/kg of cesium, here’s the dosage information:

    If a person keeps eating for one year food items containing maximum amounts of cesium allowed under the proposed limits, the total radiation exposure during that period is estimated by the ministry at 0.7 millisievert, below the 1-millisievert ceiling.

    Some local governments have expressed concerns about the rule change, which would require some to replace existing testing equipment with more expensive devices that can detect lower amounts. It also looks like the government will also give 6 month grace periods for compliance to products like beef and rice.

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