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Japan Says Food ‘Guaranteed’ Safe by Tests for Radiation Levels

Radiation Tests
Officials from the Chiba Prefectural Government Offices thresh rice samples bound for radiation tests at a field in Katori City, Chiba Prefecture on Aug. 4, 2011. Photographer: Haruyoshi Yamaguchi/Bloomberg

The safety of Japan’s food is “guaranteed” by the world’s strictest tests introduced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the government said in a statement that follows the discovery of leaks of radioactive water in recent weeks.

In the 17 months of tests through August this year, less than 0.7 percent of food produced in Japan was found to have an excessive level of radionuclides, the foreign ministry said in an e-mailed statement. The government said the tests are the strictest of any other country.

“Even in the Fukushima prefecture, where the accident occurred, annual radiation exposure from food and water is lower than one hundredth of 1 millisievert,” the food safety limit set by the United Nations, the ministry said. “Products exceeding the limits are disposed” and the areas where tainted foods are found face restrictions on further shipments, it said.

Japan, whose food exports range from high-end domestic beef and fish to baby milk powder, is stepping up reassurances about the safety of its food as discoveries of contaminated water leaks at the Fukushima station extend into a third month.

The Cabinet Office said last week that sea produce caught off the coast of Fukushima prefecture has shown a drop in radiation levels, with 5.4 percent of samples this year above limits, compared with 53 percent in 2011, the year of the accident.

Since June 2012, 16 types of sea food including flying squid and snow crabs can be caught in Fukushima waters, according to the Cabinet office.

Japan adheres to the food radiation norms known as the Codex Alimentarius, set by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.

“The safety of foods currently on the market is guaranteed,” the ministry said.

Tests on 412,959 items of food were carried out between April 1, 2012, the start of the Japanese fiscal year, and August 31, 2013, the ministry said. Of these, 2,866 items were found to exceed radiation norms.

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