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Blanket radiation checks on Fukushima rice under debate via The Japan Times

Blanket radiation checks on rice produced in nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture have come under debate because no rice with radiation exceeding the safety limit has been found in recent years.

Some people, including producers, in the prefecture call for continuing the current system because there are consumers who still avoid Fukushima produce. But the blanket checks are costly and require a lot of manpower.

The prefectural government hopes to decide by year-end whether to change the radiation checks, starting with rice that will be harvested next year, officials said.

[…]

Fukushima rice is put through radiation checks bag by bag before shipment. The safety limit is set at 100 becquerels per 1 kg of rice.

Rice that pass the checks have certification labels attached to the bags before being put through distribution channels.

According to Fukushima officials, the total amount of rice harvested last year and checked by the end of September this year reached 10.26 million bags.

To cover the expenses, the prefectural government collects ¥5 billion from Tepco each year. Some ¥500 million to ¥600 million in personnel expenses are covered with state subsidies.

The prefecture conducted radiation checks on a total of 53.13 million bags of rice harvested between 2012-2016. Total costs reached ¥30.5 billion.

The blanket check system began with the 2012 rice. At that time, 71 of the 867 bags checked exceeded the safety limit. But no such rice was detected at all for the 2014-2016 rice.

As of Oct. 25 this year, radiation levels stood below the minimum detectable level of 25 becquerels for 99.99 percent of the 2016 rice that underwent the checks.

[…]

The group will examine the issue based on opinions from more than 300 local farmers and seven wholesale companies in the Tokyo metropolitan area. It will also conduct an internet survey of 2,000 consumers nationwide.

Hisao Tomita, a farmer working in the city of Fukushima, called for the continuance of the current system even though it is burdensome also to producers.

As long as Fukushima rice is affected by negative rumors, radiation checks should be maintained even if they have to be scaled back, he said.

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