TV Asahi President Kunio Ito apologized Thursday before the Diet for a news report aired last month that claimed high concentrations of dioxin were detected in vegetables grown in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, calling the report “inappropriate.”

“Our use of charts was partly inappropriate, and insufficient explanation caused anxiety among Tokorozawa residents. I offer my apology to farmers there,” Ito told the Lower House Communications Committee.

TV Asahi reported in its News Station program Feb. 1 that concentrations of up to 3.8 picograms of dioxin were detected in each gram of spinach and other vegetables grown in Tokorozawa.

An investigation conducted by Saitama Prefecture following the furor touched off by the report showed that only green tea leaves, not vegetables, had a dioxin concentration as high as 3.8 picograms per gram. A picogram is one-trillionth of a gram.

Ito was summoned to the committee along with TV Asahi news director Hiroshi Hayakawa to explain the report. He said the contamination data were based on a survey conducted by a private research organization, noting the station commissioned the survey after the local agricultural cooperative declined to release its own dioxin survey.

Some political parties, including members of the Liberal Democratic Party, however, have complained that TV Asahi’s broadcast “went overboard.”

News Station anchor Hiroshi Kume apologized during the nightly news program’s Feb. 18 broadcast, saying the report should have referred to “agricultural produce” rather than “vegetables.”

Ito also apologized at a news conference five days later and sent written apologies to farmers who saw the price of their vegetables plummet after the report.

After offering the apology, Ito said he believes the report was in the public interest and was made in an attempt to raise public awareness. It is thought that the report and subsequent public anxiety prompted the government to tackle issues related to dioxin pollution.

The Cabinet late last month launched a panel of ministers, headed by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, to review the acceptable level of the carcinogen in humans and the environment.

The tolerable daily intake of dioxin is set at 10 picograms per kilogram of body weight per day by the Health and Welfare Ministry, but at 5 picograms by the Environment Agency.

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