Not surprising at all coming from the Ministry of Education, who declared 20 millisieverts per year external radiation exposure for school children would be safe and acceptable.
The Radiation Council, the organization under the Ministry of Education and Science who officially endorses the new radiation standards for foods, has already expressed its dismay on stricter standards as harming the producers. It has just made it "official".
In an unusual "opinion", the Council, staffed with nuclear industry insiders and nuclear and radiation researchers, has said the lower safety standards for infants are unnecessary, even though the Council will go along with it.
Which means, perhaps, the new safety standards will be full of "exceptions", not just beef and rice, rendering the new standards as good as the old. Not to mention the local governments may not even possess or have access to the detectors with much lower detection limits. Maybe the cheapest way to solve the conundrum is going to be the renewed PR campaign that everything sold in the market is safe.
From Jiji Tsushin (2/16/2012):
Radiation Council: Food safety standard for infants "unnecessary", 100 Bq/kg radioactive cesium limit "sufficient consideration"
The Radiation Council of the Ministry of Education and Science was held on February 16 to discuss the new safety standards for radioactive cesium which had been submitted by the Ministry of Health and Labor for deliberation in the Council. The opinion was expressed that "there is already sufficient consideration for children even without the special safety standard", which is to be 50 becquerels/kg for "food for infants" and "milk".
This [formal] opinion states that there is no need for a special standard for children for whom the radiation exposure is feared from ingesting radioactive materials. It is possible that consumers and parents may criticize the Council [over the opinion].
In the new safety standard from the Ministry of Health and Labor, the annual internal radiation exposure limit will be set at 1 millisievert, which is stricter than the existing limit [5 millisievert]. For "food for general consumption" like grains, meat, and vegetables, the safety limit for radioactive cesium will be 100 becquerels/kg. For "food for infants" and "milk", the safety limit will be 50 becquerels/kg. The new standards are to be introduced in April. However, in the opinion of the Radiation Council, the 100 becquerels/kg standard is already sufficient to keep the annual radiation exposure for children including infants less than 1 year old to less than 1 millisievert.
The first sentence of the last paragraph is not exactly true. 1 millisievert annual limit from internal radiation exposure from food is only about radioactive cesium.
The current provisional safety limit for radioactive cesium, 500 Bq/kg, would result in maximum 5 millisieverts annual internal radiation exposure from food, which the media started to report only toward the end of last year to the surprise of many in Japan. (My Japanese blog had written about it in April last year, but not many people were reading my blog back then.)