Monday, April 2, 2012

NHK on Japan's New Safety Limits for Cesium: "Much Lower Than EU's 1,250 Bq/Kg!"

This is a screen capture from NHK's 7PM News on April 2, 2012 (h/t hanayuu). The new safety limits for radioactive cesium, 100 becquerels/kg for food and 50 becquerels/kg for drinks (water, milk), have become effective as of April 1 except for a few items that continue to use the old provisional standards (rice is one of them, until the fall of 2012).

According to people in Japan who watched the news, the gist of the report was:

  • The safety limits for radioactive cesium in food and drinks are much higher in the EU (1,250 Bq/kg for food, 1,000 Bq/kg for drinks) and the US (1,200 Bq/kg);

  • So the new and improved safety limits in Japan are very, very conservative, even better than those in Belarus;

  • So don't worry, people, you're in good hands.

Look at the presenter. Does he look uncomfortable or does he uncomfortable?

What NHK didn't say is that:

There are many who argue that Japan's food self-sufficiency rate is low anyway, so all they need to do is to increase imported food a little bit to avoid contaminated food.

What NHK or the Japanese government won't tell you (they don't even tell the citizens in Japan clearly either) is that Japan's food self-sufficiency rate of 39% is based on calories. (Japan is probably the only country in the world to calculate the food self-sufficiency this way. Just like snow in Japan is special, so is the calculation of food self-sufficiency in Japan.) Based on calories, Japan imports almost all of edible oils from abroad (97%). So if the food self-sufficiency is calculated on calories, it significantly lowers the rate as oils are high-calorie items.

Other high-calorie items are wheat (92% import) and sugar (74% import).

If the food self-sufficiency rate is calculated based on the amounts produced and consumed, as is the case in almost all countries in the world, the overall self-sufficiency rate is 69%. For individual items, rice is 97%, vegetables 81%, fish 60%, meat 56%, eggs 96%, milk 67%, fruits 71%. One big reason for lower numbers for meat, eggs and milk is because Japan imports 75% of feeds. (See the information from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, here. Sorry it's in Japanese.)

When you consider these rates, Japan's new safety limits indicate that Japan will be in a state of a nuclear emergency for years and years, not just for a brief period.


Anonymous said...

Another eye-opening reporting. Thank you, ex-skf.

The Japanese government is currently in a desparate war against the ugly truth. NHK is one of their main foot soldiers whose mission is dissemination of misinformation and government spins.

Even though it a public news station, NHK does not have much respect in Japan these days for the questionable business practice.

In Japan, NHK sends sales men to individual homes to collect broadcasting fees (even if you don't watch their channel). Last year, one of them visited my eldery aunt (85yr old) while her daughter was at work. The two have just moved in a new apartment and did not even own a TV (the aunt goes to an old folks home during the day, and with the Internet on a computer, they decided they don't need a TV).

Despite this, the sales person tricked the aunt into an annual NHK contract by forging her signature. This aunt could not even remember her new address since she's old and just moved. So, the NHK guy essentially filled out every single item on the contract and tricked her to give him cash.

You can imagine the outrage when the daugher came home from work and found this out. Eventually they got the contract nullified, but it took many weeks and intervention from local city officials.

Anonymous said...

1000 km/h speed limit in a city would mean little as a regulation standard. Now if people actually drove at 100 km/h downtown there would be trouble. Same with EU / Japan radioactivity regulations:1000 is meaningless when such contaminated food hopefully doesn't exist in EU whereas 100 is harmful with most food from northwest Japan being contaminated.

Anonymous said...

Absolute nonsense. Contaminated food exists in the EU. To assert that 100 bq is harmful is to engage in fear-mongering. 100 bq may be safer than 101 bq, which is safer than 102 bq, but at these levels the difference is splitting hairs. The cancer risk from eating 100 bq at every meal, every day, is completely negligible, but I'm well aware that bringing this up on exskf will get me no popularity votes. This site has become a cult for those who wish to believe that every bite of sushi is a death sentence.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@anon at 3:40PM, "The cancer risk from eating 100 bq at every meal, every day, is completely negligible" - can you direct me to the data or study showing that?

Anonymous said...

What kind of smear campaign are you trying to do here, calling the blog "having become a cult"?

James said...

This paper explains why lowering the limit in the second year is actually a codex mandated next step. After all, in Japan we have been eating contaminated food for over a year already.

Also from the table half way down the page: 2nd year cesium 137 should be limited to 100bq/kg, strontium 90 should be set at 20bq/kg and plutonium 239 at 2bq/kg, but good luck getting the Japanese Government to discuss those last two.

Atomfritz said...

Good point, anon 3:21.
This illustrates very well why the Soviet Union immediately after the Chernobyl accident reduced the milk's radiation limit from 3,700 Bq/l to 370 Bq/l.

Now let's see what the EPA actually thinks of being acceptable (not necessarily meaning "safe"):

Cesium-137 = 200 picocuries per liter (7.41 Bq/L)
Stronium-90 = 8 picocuries per liter. (0.30 Bq/L)
Technetium-99 = 900 picocuries per liter (33.3 Bq/L)
Tritium = 20,000 picocuries per liter (741 Bq/L)
Uranium-238 = 30 µg/L (micrograms/liter)
Iodine-129 = 3 picocuries per liter (0.11 Bq/L)

(Source: Washington State Dept of Ecology, link: )
Credit goes to fukushimafaq, which offers also a good overview of some other countries' limits here:

Atomfritz said...

Please note that the numbers from the EPA I listed in my comment above are NOT the intervention levels in the US, which are higher.
These are just the values the EPA calculated that must not be exceeded to avoid internal exposition from the particular isotope exceed acceptable 4 millirems/year.

You really have to read official statements several times to really understand their hidden caveats and not be fooled. I have to admit I got fooled the first and second time I read these, needed to digest them a third time. I have to apologize for my stupidity...

Anonymous said...

I had been reporting to my students for years in Japan that food self sufficiency was only 66 percent, but thank you so much for clarifying. The untrue Orwellian calculation based on calories (from junk food crap) has nothing to do with most of the food consumed in Japan. Clearly this was intentional in order to help Japan uphold the double standard of being able to export to other countries while blocking imports to Japan. At any rate, the idea that 100 bq/kg is safe is nonsense. The National Academy of Sciences in the US says there is no such thing as a safe dose of radiation.

Avoid all food from: Fukushima; Ibaraki; Tochigi; Gunma; Chiba; Tokyo; not to mention Yamagata and Miyagi. If possible don't eat anything from Tohoku or Kanto, but i do believe food from Nagoya and further west is basically safe (though may have some very low traces of cesium at times).

People in Tokyo are going to be ingesting radioactive food for years and years and there will be "no immediate health danger"? Yeah, rite.

Anonymous said...

Oops! I meant to write, food self sufficiency was only 33 percent, not 66, got that backwards. And with the Trans Pacific Partnership it is reported to go down to 13 percent food self sufficiency.

Anonymous said...

Here is the link to the EU regulation that has been issued in April 2011 in response to the Fukushima accident.

Cs-134/137 limit is 500 Bq/kg, 200Bq/kg for dairy products, liquid foodstuffs and food for children. Please note that the EU has lowered the limits after the Fukushima accident and adjusted it to Japan limits.

The recently announced limits in Japan are indeed low, but lying about the limits in other countries undermines the credibility of NHK. The government has anyway lost its credibility in March 2011 already.

Anonymous said...

And new, lower limits for rice and beef won't come into effect until October 1.

k said...

Does the calculation of food self sufficiency take into account the foreign petroleum products needed to run the machines used by farmers to produce food?

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@k, no. Many experts and researchers think the calculation by the government is meaningless because it doesn't take into account many things including what you mentioned.

Anonymous said...

> Absolute nonsense. Contaminated food exists in the EU.

Yes - but as an exception, not as the rule. Keyword: cumulative.

Anonymous said...

I would be surprised to learn that contamination in Europe is the exception instead of the rule. I would be surprised to learn that all food grown in Europe was cesium-free in the years following Chernobyl. And I would be extremely surprised to learn if any country in Europe has a zero-tolerance policy, as seems to be implied in the many posts here.

For anyone who is genuinely interested in the limits and various calculation I suggest the following.

Of course if anyone is simply interested in a pointless polemic about whether zero becquerels is better than 1 becquerel of cesium, or a thousand becquerels of cesium, you need not read the article. I instead invite you instead to cling to the belief that ever single becquerel is a loaded pistol, and that every fish in the pacific is a live hand-grenade.

Anonymous said...

>I instead invite you instead to cling to the belief that ever single becquerel is a loaded pistol, and that every fish in the pacific is a live hand-grenade.

What's the point of going from one end of extreme to another?

Anonymous said...

> I would be surprised to learn that contamination in Europe is the exception instead of the rule.

The point is that contamination in food TODAY is not on the same level as in Japan right now. I agree there is no zero Bq in food, and with the dumping of rad waste in the seas even traces of Pu can be found in seafood. But it is not in the same league with often hundreds or thousands of Bq found in some foods in Japan on a regular basis with very efforts of the authorities trying to limit things coming out of the affected areas.

Or are you one of those long-term foreigners in Japan who needs to justify your continued staying no matter what?

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