Radiation fears haunt food shoppers in Japan


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Once bitten, twice shy. The Aeon President has it spot on - no one wants to buy any food that has any contamination even within the 'safe limit' because no one really believes that there is a 'safe' limit especially after the 'limit' was mucked around with by the government in the aftermath of the disaster. The zero tolerance approach is the only sensible way to begin to get people purchasing food from these areas again and rebuilding trust, in the meantime the affected farmers should go and keep knocking on TEPCO's door for compensation.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

im so glad the younger generation is flipn the bird to the gaman or support our brothers or we all suffer together ideoligies. get real old farts. cant wait for all of ya to retire out of politics!! way to go young j people. and now that i know what EAON is doing, im gonna do my shoppn there!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Yokono, 27, now buys imported fish

imported fish may be Japanese if it is exported first and then imported back.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Trustable labeling of food origins would help. I avoid all food labeled generally "Nihon kara" (from Japan) because for me that is code for "from Fukushima". Isotope infested food.

This article is uplifting with positive steps and outright skepticism of the people. Disheartening for the overall lack of a responsible and trustworthy government. The farmers of Fukushima are in a no-win bind. Their only honorable and practical choice is to give it up and move out. The government and TEPCO should be helping farmers relocate. It's harsh, but this generation is over and must relocate and begin anew.

So much for solutions. Let's keep following what is actually happening.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is the price the farmers, fishermen, and producers have to pay for the government making safety standards more lax just when the public needed STRICTER limits and improved/more transparent/thorough monitoring.

The govt. did just the opposite and the public and the rest of the world has lost TRUST.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Oh yeah absolutely! Terrible fear going on about what's safe to eat and what's not. I buy almost everything from abroad or as far away as possible from the radiation zone ie. Kyushu, Shikoku. Hokkaido etc. Gov't doesn't care at all for its peoples that we all is clear.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"...suspicions the government was acting on behalf of producers, instead of consumers." I have taken that for granted since I first arrived here years ago. Japanese people seem to lack the ability to actually DEMAND anything from politicians and lobby organizations. They sure have the manpower but the will, or the interest, doesn't seem to be there at all. I would like to see much more of a powerful grassroots movement and to see people openly question politicians.

Until that happens, I guess we'll all have to keep the status quo.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

After 3/11 the prudent action would have been to quarantine produce from the Tohoku region. However,information on the spread of fallout was withheld,testing protocols for contamination not in place.

Incredibly, with radiation still spreading, a massive campaign was launched for consumers to buy produce from Fukushima ! And almost a year after the meltdowns radioactive food is being detected in Okinawa but not through government testing. And with such apparent laxity what of the undetected food that escapes testing?

In Japan it was normal for the prefecture to be listed on the pack but now 国産 is the norm.

How is it that a private firm like Aeon can understand the food safety issue better than the Japanese government?

6 ( +6 / -1 )

I wonder if it would be possible to know where the ingredients from manufactured food come from. It is feasible to control were the vegetables you buy are from, but how do you know where did the big company bought the meat for that gyoza at the supermarket? Where Does the konbini onigiri rice comes from?

Is there some way to know where the factories are located? Do people ask them about what ingredients do they use? Are the companies willing to cooperate?

Is the answer NO, as usual?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

For Japanese shoppers, food safety was taken for granted until the Fukushima crisis.

This is not true. There were plenty of Japanese worried about the safety of food in in their country, from chemicals used for rice production to high mercury levels in some seafood, for starters. Scandals involving companies like Snow Brand and Meat Hope come to mind. And then you can look at imported food from China, among others.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What makes you think you can trust imported food? Exploding watermelons, grimy guzoa, melamine milk, festering farmed prawns and fish, this list is endless, I'll keep eating what's in the shops because you need to eat so much before its to much.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )


I buy almost everything from abroad or as far away as possible from the radiation zone ie. Kyushu, Shikoku. Hokkaido etc. Gov't doesn't care at all for its peoples that we all is clear.

The thing is, it's easy to imagine the parties concerned, knowing that local produce in the affected areas won't sell locally, would just re-label it as Kyushu/Shikoku produce and ship it down there. It's not as though re-labelling food in Japan is unheard of... I live in Kyushu, but I wouldn't be surprised if further down the line I was to hear that Fukushima "X" had been re-labelled and sold in Kyushu/Shikoku/Wherever.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Japanese food safety is a tatemae with nothing but financial interests of grumpy old men holding it up. Aeon is on the right track - zero tolerance is the only way. It was so in Europe, it will be so in Japan as well.

Imported food can be trusted because of it's problems: it is diligently tested and tested again no matter what, and there are no lobby organizations to demand that food would be not tested because of some feeble ideological reasons.

Are Japanese still thinking about using robots to cultivate land that is too contaminated to be cultivated by humans? I hope the lobbyists eat the produce themselves as well.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

For Japanese shoppers, food safety was taken for granted until the Fukushima crisis.

It has just never been. I remember well the many of the food scandals.

Yuki brand dairy products caused mass poisoning, even after discovered they merchandised the leftover on more time.

Toxic rice scandal in 2008

Candy scandal by Akafuku confectioner in 2007 article by Norimitsu Onishi

Arrests in Japanese meat labelling scandal

Japan recalls sweets in melamine scandal in 2008

Dozens died of eating tainted gyoza, got sick consuming powdered and canned milk products.

Now I should write a 1000 pages report to mention all of them, instead have a look at the Japanese food hazard map.

Don't worry, food has never been safe in Japan it's just the contamination is different.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Simply by raising the approved radiation level does not make food safe, and i am not surprised that

"The problem for Yokono is that she—along with a significant proportion of the Japanese shopping public—does not trust the government’s safety standards." Anyone who trusts this government would have to be a blind fool.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

good! word of advice: don't trust the Japanese government or anything they tell you. trust your own reason over their lies. buy food from far away. Japan needs a coup d'état ASAP

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It's good news, of course, but I'm just wondering where all these people were 11 months ago - the supermarket owners now only selling zero-contaminated foods, the members of the public in the article voicing their distrust of the government....

Shouldn't they have been more vocal in all this 9, 10, 11 months ago? If they had spoken up in the same way back then, then maybe the government would have been forced into comprehensive, systematic checking for zero-contaminated foods.

One only hopes we live and learn from these things.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“What is most frightening for Japanese people is radiation in seafood rather than food on earth, because we take lots of minerals from fish and seaweed,” he said.

What is this b%llox? People here aren't "frightened" or "scared" five-year olds hiding behind their sofas, they are aware of the risks and dangers, which are compounded by an untrustworthy, lying government and bureaucrats, and they are acting to protect themselves. Sure, there is some irrationality thrown in at times, but mostly it's totally rational - if the information given is inadequate, suppliers and distributors are clearly engaging in underhand practices - mislabelling, generic labelling, mixing produce from different areas, non-disclosure of information, emotive appeals to "support" producers, not backed up by any information on radiation levels - of course, people will act to protect themselves and their families as much as they can.

I for one will look out for an Aeon supermarket near me - they get my thumbs up.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Great article! I hope they honestly adhere to the 100bq/kg limit come April. Also hope AEON is being honest with their zero-tolerance policy and not just slapping a label on to entice customers. It would be nice to see some AEON-independent tests done on AEON products to ensure that they are in fact following their own zero-tolerance policy. Food safety has been my greatest concern since 3/11.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Pretty sad day when "Made in Japan" means pretty much the worst in the world, and most suspicious. It's good of other nations to do their own testing, and to reject outright any imports from the affected region instead of falling victim to the J-government's "please try this produce from Fukushima to PROVE it's okay" or worse yet, "You should accept our imports so as not to hurt the feelings of our people".

There is a small town in Oita Prefecture called 'Usa' (宇佐), which after WWII grew quite a bit because products made there were labelled "Made in USA". It wasn't a lie, it was just clever labeling at a time when products made in Japan were not really considered to be of any quality. Perhaps now USA will have another shot at reclaiming their former glory (they still have a sign that says, in English, "Welcome to USA!". Quite clever).

3 ( +5 / -2 )

well i think buying imported food only reduces the amount of radiation u have already does not eliminate! you are still breathing significant amounts of airborne poisonous nuclear emissions from the plants that continue spewing the stuff to the current day. you will still use water, which has been acting as nuclear waste and radiation sink for a whole year with no end in sight! if nuclear radiation could show where it is in japan, all people would evacuate the country the whole eco-system and food chain are messed up with radiation.

3 ( +6 / -2 )

@Rick Kisa

you are still breathing significant amounts of airborne poisonous nuclear emissions from the plants that continue spewing the stuff to the current day.

Where? What are the counts in the air? What radioactive isotopes are we breathing in? What is "significant amounts"? How much "stuff" is the plant spewing out? What kinds of "stuff"? Where is it going? Who is being affected? To what extent?

you will still use water, which has been acting as nuclear waste and radiation sink for a whole year with no end in sight!

Who is using water that has been acting as nuclear waste? How are they using it? Again, what are the counts in that water and what radioactive isotopes are in it? Where is this water?

the whole eco-system and food chain are messed up with radiation.

What, in the whole country? Can you post evidence confirming this? For example, is the rice I bought from Niigata messed up with radiation? How about the spinach from Shikoku?

Are you talking about the whole country, or just the evacuated areas?

-9 ( +6 / -14 )

The Japanese Government has done everything possible to obfuscate the truth, including either destroying or not allowing the production of minutes of meetings about the Fukushima Disaster. (These meetings' notes were supposed to be compiled and published in February, where are they?)

The bigger danger to Japanese people's food supply, water and health comes from the numerous accidents at petroleum and chemical producing facilities in Japan. According to US Government officials, but never publicly discussed in Japan, the fires and leaks at these toxic materials' plants posed a greater danger to the Japanese environment. The radiation is bad enough, and more widespread than the 20km "No Go" zone, but the chemical related dangers are actually much more serious.

Time for the J-government to become honest and accountable to the people of Japan. Time for the Japanese people to get more aggressive about the real dangers, and given ways to deal with and overcome them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If it's not imported, don't eat it! Period.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@smithinjapan. "Made in USA" Ha! I remember in the late 80's going through that town, thinking "That is the funniest name ever". Ah, simpler days of yore. Now, it's a bleeding nightmare.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's just as well imported stuff is cheaper !!! (exception: the basmati - which I continue to enjoy despite the ridiculous tax)

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think that you have to trust the scientists. After all, we don't think twice about eating food from the supermarket that's within date and there's no way of telling whether that's contaminated (with bacteria, for example) or not.

Safe limits for radioactivity are remarkably low in Japan, and there's a sophisticated food testing regime here, so I think people are simply being paranoid. I sympathise, but I'm not worried.

Earthquakes are to worry about, not radioactivity.

-3 ( +1 / -3 )


I don't think people who are still in Japan are paranoid, or they wouldn't be here (and I'm not saying the people who left are paranoid). I do think there's a difference between paranoia and caution, and paranoia and distrust. You're obviously not someone who thinks all food from the very large prefecture of Fukushima is contaminated - nor am I. I also don't believe ingesting food with ANY level of radioactivity is necessarily going to harm us - and I imagine nor do you.

But I wouldn't call the food testing regime here sophisticated with regard to radioactivity post-Fukushima. The government has relied only on random checking of foodstuffs, and mostly on a voluntary basis. That's not sophisticated at all. And lots of the food that was found to be over the government limit was found by voluntary testing. How much other stuff got through?

Naturally, people would prefer to choose produce where radioactivity is 'not detected', rather than produce at 50, 100, 300, 500 Bq/kg or whatever. The point is they are not being given enough information to make a choice. They are buying blind: it could be zero, it could be 500 Bq/kg. How can we choose something on the lower scale? Why can't we have a choice?

If the ingredients list on all food packaging was removed and the government said "Don't worry, whatever's in there won't harm you" there would be an outcry. Consumers would like to know these things. There's nothing inherently paranoid about that.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

hatsoff is right. Only a very small number of samples from a few carefully selected areas (they are intentionally selected so the tests are not random) are tested and the system is voluntary. The people doing the tests are associations of food producers who stand to make money if the food passes the test. This is why food is being found all over the country that exceeds the government's standards. The testing system is a farce run by jokers, overseen by liars and thieves. Japanese have long believed that kokusan food is safe in spite of evidence to the contrary. After all, this is the country that invented Minamata byo, which the government ignored and denied like it does now with strontium. There are waves of gastrointestinal epidemics that sweep this nation every summer. Last year it was raw beef. One would have to be insane to eat that in any country but Japanese believed that because it was served in Japan, it was safe. Some died as a result. Radiation has finally drawn the public's attention to the dangers of Japanese food.

Are we to trust Japanese scientists? The scientist who advises Fukushima's government claims that smiling is an antidote to radiation. He urges physicians who find health abnormalities to keep them quiet. That's what this country calls science.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"food safety was taken for granted before the Fukushima crisis"

Not by me.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Nicky, I think Rick was being humourous.....I hope. Because if he wasn't, his comments still made me laugh.

Good questions back at him though. Thumbs up!

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Things cannot go back to the way they were. ignorant do some good with the news, the loss and change the future with informed - responsibility

1 ( +1 / -0 )

What zichi said.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ministry hid data on fallout from public

SPEEDI forecast judged too chilling to be released: internal memo

Moderator: The URL will suffice.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Gurukun thanks. Maybe I am just losing my sense of humour over all this now?! But i am just so sick of living like this.

My husband is now not speaking to me this morning because I had the gall last night to question where the beef had come from that he used to make hamburg for dinner with. It was "kokusan" beef. So my next question was is he not concerned about that lack of information? This he took as criticism that the entire meal was not good! sigh ! He is the kind of Japanese that believes we can trust the government and so for me for the last year it seems like everything has been an uphill battle. Im being made to feel paranoid for simply questioning reasonably where our food comes from! I am so sick of it!

-8 ( +6 / -15 )

@nickywashida: you're not wrong for wanting to know where you food is coming from. Your husband was being petulant (sorry)

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

A few months ago, I noticed some of the small rice sellers (the ones who also sell onigiri) often repack the rice into smaller bags, and that the labels just state 国産. While in supermarkets, the rice bags specifically states the prefecture the rice was grown, and rice from Mie or other prefectures are even markedly priced higher than ones from Iwate.

And I agree with the otehr posters here, that the government has released very limited information, even at times using mind-numbing jargon declaring that there is no problem, and still denies the possibility of any future problems.

The government likewise denies victims special medical assistance for children who have been near the nuclear disaster.

We cannot rely on the government in times of crisis ... that's one hard slap for all of us. But was it enough to make everyone aware of the truth?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Nicky, I feel your pain. The JGov needs to really give the public accurate news...the good, bad and ugly. And then we, the public, can decide for ourselves what and if we want to eat something. Me and the wife went to a sushi restauraunt yesterday and got in the sme heated arguement that you had with your husband. All I asked is where the fish came from and she lost it! Needless to say, the amount of the final bill was very palatable. LOL!

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Nicky, gurun, I know exactly what you mean. There seems to be a wagons-in-a-circle mindset for many Japanese. Asking a legitimate question is perceived as an anti-Japanese attack. It's very childish indeed, and what little patience I have is wearing very thin. Are these people really so brainwashed that they can't question the authorities that have lied to them every step of the way since 3/11?

-10 ( +4 / -14 )

Nicky - I get that all the time. I have to walk on eggshells when asking about where some food item is from. People who grew up in this school system seem to mix their personal identity in with unrelated social issues. It's the way they're taught to take social responsibility. Unfortunately, it makes them extremely defensive to general social criticism.

But we all need to be diligent when it comes to sourcing our food. "Kokusan'' is not nearly enough information. They need stricter labelling/sourcing laws!

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Wow - many thanks to the thumbs-downers for illustrating my point about the petulant over-defensiveness to any legitimate health concerns about the food chain and the reliability of official data.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Nicky, gurun, I know exactly what you mean. There seems to be a wagons-in-a-circle mindset for many Japanese. Asking a legitimate question is perceived as an anti-Japanese attack. It's very childish indeed, and what little patience I have is wearing very thin. Are these people really so brainwashed that they can't question the authorities that have lied to them every step of the way since 3/11?

Ivan, I agree, but it is improving, not everyone is blindly following the norm and not questioning what the government are doing. Civil society is strengthening in Japan, it's a slow process, but it's definitely happening. If the nuclear disaster happened in the 80s, I think the 'wagons-in-a-circle' mindset would be even worse.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

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