社説:放射能汚染牛 全頭検査で安全守れ

(Mainichi Japan) July 13, 2011
Testing system urgently needed after discovery of radiation-tainted beef
社説:放射能汚染牛 全頭検査で安全守れ

Radioactive cesium exceeding the government's provisional upper limit has been detected in the meat of Japanese black cattle shipped out from a farm in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture.
Some meat shipped out from the same farm has already been consumed.

It is said the meat does not pose a health threat unless it is consumed in large quantities on an ongoing basis, but the very fact that meat containing an excessive level of radiation has slipped into the market represents a failure on behalf of the Fukushima Prefectural Government, which is in charge of testing.

Deficiencies in the checking system must be quickly amended.

The government must also provide support to alleviate the concerns of consumers and prevent the spread of harmful rumors.

The farm from which the meat in question was shipped out is located within an emergency evacuation preparation zone established in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government has conducted external radiation checks on all cows shipped out from this area and the prefecture's planned evacuation zone, but checks on the meat have been restricted to sampled screening by local bodies across the country where the meat is processed.

In cases like this, in which cows have been exposed to radiation internally through their feed, officials can't check for radiation without actually testing the processed meat.

To find out what cows had been fed and how they had been raised, the Fukushima Prefectural Government had done no more than ask farmers.

Its half-hearted approach to inspections ended up casting doubt on the safety of food products from the prefecture.

To prevent a recurrence, the prefectural government says it will launch emergency inspections covering all beef-cattle farms in the two evacuation zones and perform checks on all beef cattle that are shipped out, including checks for internal radiation.

It sees the measures as necessary to ease consumers' concerns and prevent the spread of harmful rumors.

However, testing all cows is no easy task.

In cases where the cows are processed into meat outside the prefecture, the prefectural government will ask other local bodies to conduct inspections, but parties on the receiving end lack the equipment and manpower to perform the checks.

At the same time, there is a limit to how far cooperation between local bodies can go.

The central government must therefore also provide support.

Farm Minister Michihiko Kano and Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Ritsuo Hosokawa have both indicated they will lend their support.

We urge the government to cooperate with the local bodies involved to quickly work out a concrete solution.

Needless to say, the issue has greatly impacted farmers in disaster areas.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government has asked those in designated regions to refrain from shipping out beef cattle until a testing system is in place.

From the perspective of consumer safety and peace of mind, this is a natural move, but for farmers who have struggled to produce safe meat after having faced the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent threat of radiation, it is no doubt very discouraging.

Of concern is the fact that the prefecture's agriculture, forestry and fisheries division says there are no current prospects of determining when cows can been shipped out.

To prevent farmers from losing hope, the government must quickly prepare an inspection system and provide compensation for those who are not able to ship out their cows.

Even after shipments resume, farmers will not be able to gather grass and rice straw to use as feed if radioactive materials remain in the soil.

To keep farms operating, decontamination work is vital.

The government must act quickly.

毎日新聞 2011年7月13日 2時32分

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