A government panel approved Thursday a proposal for far stricter limits on radioactive cesium found in food, paving the way for the health ministry to enforce the new limits in April.
The Radiation Council under the science ministry said that to provide a generous safety margin, the new limits are based on the false assumption that most food products are contaminated with cesium following the explosions last March at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
The panel also said food with cesium levels slightly above the new limits would have little effect on human health.
Because the new limits could impede sales of farm products from Fukushima Prefecture, the government should respect the views of producers as much as possible in enforcing them, it said.
The new limits, which come between one-twentieth and one-quarter of the present tentative limits depending on the food category, are set at 100 becquerels per kilogram for regular food items such as rice and meat, compared with the current 500 becquerels , 50 becquerels for milk and infant food, and 10 becquerels for drinking water.
Otsura Niwa, head of the Radiation Council, said 100 becquerels is a safe enough level and there’s no need to separate food for infants in a family with small kids.
The new limits are intended to curb the total internal exposure to cesium from food to less than 1 millisievert per year. The current limit is 5 millisieverts a year.
The health ministry proposed the new limits in December after debating the matter, then asked the Radiation Council to judge if the proposal was appropriate.
Quarries pass test
Crushed stone with a high level of radiation was probably not shipped to areas outside Fukushima Prefecture, officials said Wednesday, following a survey of radiation levels at quarries in the prefecture.
According to the study, a relatively high level of radiation was detected at only one quarry, situated in Namie inside the evacuation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Twenty-eight quarries were subject to the study, but radiation was not measured at two of them because of heavy snow.
The survey was made after the city of Nihommatsu reported Jan. 15 that the radiation exposure reading in a new condominium complex built with concrete that used crushed stone from Namie was higher than outside the building.