Friday, March 30, 2012

It's Official: Canned Fish from Tohoku Will Go to Developing Countries, With the Help from UN

Another "win" for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who operates the ODA (Official Development Assistance). They have managed to obtain support from the United Nations on this one.

I first wrote about this particular ODA in June last year, with the follow-up post in September when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs formally requested the appropriation for the 3rd supplementary budget.

Now it's official, with the help of the UN. Canned fish from Tohoku will be given to people in developing countries in the world so that the fisheries in the disaster-affected areas can recover and "baseless rumors" disappear.

The fish cans will go to Cambodia and 4 other countries and will be used in school lunches to feed school children.

From Sankei Shinbun (3/30/2012):

食料支援で風評被害解消 被災地の缶詰を途上国に

Food aid to dispel baseless rumors, by sending canned food made in disaster-affected areas to developing countries


The Japanese government exchange letters with the UN WFP (World Food Programme) regarding the ODA (Official Development Assistance) so that people in developing countries will be able to eat processed marine products made in the areas affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The purpose is to promote [the recovery of] fisheries industry in the disaster-affected areas and to dispel baseless rumors [that food in Japan is contaminated with radioactive materials].


The Japanese government allocated 1 billion yen in the fiscal 2011 3rd supplementary budget. Using this money, WFP will purchase cans of boiled sardines and mackerels made in factories in Aomori, Iwate, Ibaraki, and Chiba Prefectures. The cans will be shipped to 5 countries including Cambodia for the use in school lunches. Toshiyuki Kato, parliamentary secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs [No.3 politician at the ministry] emphasized in the letter exchanging ceremony, "The marine product processing companies in the disaster-affected areas have sustained grave damage, and they are doing their best to resume full operation."


There are a few citizens' groups who oppose this particular ODA program as they are worried about the effect of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The top officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explain that the radiation measurement will be conducted, and only those products without any worry of safety will be exported so that the baseless rumors that still persist overseas are dispelled.

When the Japanese government officials say "without any worry of safety", their safety equals 100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium starting April 1, 2012.

I couldn't find any press release on this, and no information as to other 4 countries receiving the canned fish from Japan.

Here's from the feedback page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. You can contact them by mail or by phone, or you can contact the embassies and consulates around the world.

The UN's WFP contact information is here:


Anonymous said...

I can't even begin to express how disgusted this makes me feel. It's bad enough that Japan's food chain has been contaminated, but to export such foodstuffs--like the tinned salmon in your previous post?--under the guise of aid, and for school's lunches... It really is evil.


Nancy said...

Is there a way to do an international petition online? Everyone I have talked to is just outraged by this and the fact that the UN is supporting it!

I read all the horrible things going on in Fukushima and you almost become numb because everything is so horrible and frustrating. This just boggles the mind.

Anonymous said...

(The following comment was previously submitted to the "Woods Hole Update" blog post)

1) Article: "Highest Level of Radioactive Cesium to Date Found in Freshwater fish in Fukushima Village", Mainichi Daily News, March 31, 2012. []

..."The yamame, or landlocked masu salmon, caught in the Niida River in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, measured 18,700 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, a reading over 37 times more than the government-imposed provisional limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

...The radiation dose detected this time exceeds the 14,400 becquerels per kilogram detected in sand eels in waters off Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, in April 2011, becoming the highest radiation dose found in sea and freshwater fish since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster."

2) Report + Video: "20 km Marine Study Around Fukushima Daiichi Finds High Concentrations of Cesium in Fish and Shellfish"; by Lucas Hixon at, March 30, 2012. []

..."TEPCO has released partial results of a marine study of fish and shellfish in the 20 km body of water around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. TEPCO released the Cesium 134 and Cesium 137 levels of 2 samples taken. The highest concentration of Cs-137 peaked at 1100 Bq/kg in two samples. Cs-134 peaked at 840 bq/kg.

...The highest levels were recorded close to the shore, both north and south of the nuclear power station. The highest levels were detected in the most southern sample taken with 840 Bq/kg of Cs-134 and 1100 Bq/kg of Cs-137."


Karen Sherry Brackett said...

A banana is slightly higher in radiation but it is at least is from potassium which the body needs. The human body has no need for cesium no matter the level and will only accumulate more and more of it over time. Japan has no right to use poverty stricken countries as Ginny pigs for the promotion of their products. Truly, I rarely eat a banana because of the life time accumulation problem with them.

Not to mention the empty cans will continue to accumulate in land fills and cause water contamination problems for these countries as well.

Anonymous said...

Shut up Brackett

Anonymous said...

Cesium doesn't accumulate in the body. Its biological half-life is 1-4 months.

As for poverty stricken countries, it is better for them to eat very slightly radioactive food than to die of hunger - and we are talking about food that is about as radioactive as natural bananas.

Karen Sherry Brackett said...

Anon @7:27,no it us not better to eat radioactive waste than to die of hunger. Japan gave some serious change to the UN and it needs to be used to purchased some good food and considering all the help the world has given Japan this is not a good reflection on their human nature.

Anonymous said...

@anon at 7:27PM, One-time ingestion of radioactive cesium is different from chronic ingestion, which is what it has been in Japan.

I don't think it is a matter of life or death if children in Cambodia don't eat canned fish from Japan for their school lunch.

Japan's ODA goes to countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam. They may be developing nations, but people are hardly dying of hunger there.

Anonymous said...

Did you post this discussion back in October?

It's getting difficult to keep track of all the madness surrounding this disaster.

Chibaguy said...

I agree, the banana logic is meaningless and adds nothing to the conversation.

Again this is another example of people doing something under the guise of good which is actually evil.

Anonymous said...

We are radioactive beings living in a radioactive world. Bananas have natural K40, radioactive potassium, and we need this substance for our well being. Cesium 137 is man-made, and can be taken up by the body confusing it with potassium and absorbs into muscle and can affect the heart. It will damage healthy tissue around it. Also, when the radioactivity is in the gut it will certainly have an effect on oocytes of young girls which lie in close proximity to the GI tract. Having enough potassium in the diet will reduce the uptake of cesium 137. So I hope those young children eat plenty of bananas with their radioactive fish.
A very misguided plan.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@anon at 8:55PM, no I didn't know about that meeting, though I posted an article on the subject in September.

About banana, I'm scratching my head reading Japanese tweets of a medical doctor and professor at a national university saying banana's potassium and cesium from nuclear reactor are equally safe. This is after one year since the accident.

Gresham's law.

And what's with "Reactor 4 falling down" meme, again? Where do people see this stuff?

Anonymous said...

They could feed the entire universe radioactive food. It won't and can't "dispel baseless rumors". The only way they can truly dispel the rumors is if they get irrefutable proof from the future that there won't be health issues later on.

Anonymous said...

K40? Activity of K40 is 32 Bq per gramme, with 90% of emissions being a beta particles. Energy spectrum peaks at 0.5MeV with Emax at 1.4Mev. Max range in air 4.3 meters.

K40 in a 'banana' is PROPAGANDA as it varies greatly between samples. Ideally we should not have any K40 in us but future civilisations will remove it from their diets.


Anonymous said...

PS: 32 Bq K40 activity in naturally occurring Potassium I should add - typo.
Not you have to be careful in the lab with K - as over a certain quantity it requires special handling. It is usually ignored.


Annie Linux said...

bananas are safe:

Paul Frame, Oak Ridge Associated Universities

Potassium-40(K-40) is a naturally-occurring radionuclide. Wherever there is potassium, there is potassium-40. If there is enough potassium, the K-40 can be detectable with a simple survey instrument.


K-40 Half-life: 1.28 x 109 years

K-40 Decay Mode:

Beta decay (89.3%). The beta maximum energy is 1.31 MeV

Electron Capture (10.7%).

Gamma Rays: 1461 keV (10.7%)

Daily intake of potassium element: 3.3 grams

Amount of potassium element in body: 140 grams (1.5 pCi/g or 55 Bq/kg of body weight)

Typical K-40 activity in body: 0.1 uCi; This means that there are over 200,000 atoms of K-40 that decay in the body each minute!

Typical K-40 activity in soil: 10 to 20 pCi/g

Dose from Potassium-40

The dose to a typical member of the population is approximately 15-20 mrem/year due to the K-40 in the body and 10 mrem/year due to the gamma rays emitted by K-40 in the environment (primarily the soil).

The human body maintains relatively tight homeostatic control over potassium levels. This means that the consumption of foods containing large amounts of potassium will not increase the body’s potassium content. As such, eating foods like bananas does not increase your annual radiation dose. If someone ingested potassium that had been enriched in K-40, that would be another story.

Nancy said...

Sorry, anyone posting this banana nonsense is an idiot. Do the world a favor and go drown yourself in a bucket.

It looks like the NEI caught wind of your article and sent their keyboard brigade to come spam the comments.

Sending contaminated food to another country's children as a "gift" is evil.

Anonymous said...

Great. Not enough to kill Japanese children, now they're spreading the love.

As for the banana lovers, you should consume a few buckets of them. RIGHT NOW. Then, we can start off with a little basic conversation.

Cambodia is not a frozen wasteland, BTW. The question there is always distribution -- there is enough, no need for poisoned and sick fish. I'd rather it came close to a Whole Foods store at which some of the vile commentators here surely shop.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

It's really interesting, this banana meme and "reactor 4 falling apart any time' meme suddenly reappeared in Japanese tweets also in the past few days.

Anonymous said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. After Chernobyl, the same kind of thing happened in Germany (and possibly other countries): shipped the radioactive food off to some poor country.

Maybe there is validity or even humanity in the thinking that giving it to people who would otherwise starve is better than "wasting" it. However, to me personally - and apparently others as well - this still seems horrible. We weren't about to send the same kind of gift of noncontaminated food, were we? That's where it becomes self-serving and therefore unethical - at a minimum.

logosky said...

.. and again, in their monitoring system, they only talk about "100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium "... as if cesium is the only radionuclide to woory about!
Cesiun is just in indicative element... to confirm that the food had been exposed to contamination to a certain degree.. but it is not a sufficient indication to conclude about the safety of the food. there are elements like plutonium which are merely mentioned, but will cause more harm to people, even detected in a tinny amount.. we are talking about miligrams per litter of food!!!

Anonymous said...

How utterly odd that our ancestors, the primates, have to their benefit been gorging on bananas when in season for as long as they have existed, but now we should all of a sudden limit our banana intake because of detrimental K-40.

Karen, shut the fuck up about bananas already!!!!!! We evolved alongside K-40 in our natural food chain, you complete moron. It's not like ingesting manmade radioactive shit that comes out of a reactor.

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