Concerned consumers and antiwhaling groups on Tuesday petitioned the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry to abandon the idea of allowing whale meat to be imported from Norway because of potentially high levels of pollution.
“We fear this is potentially dangerous food and question whether importing it is really necessary,” said Takehiro Masuyama of Safety First. “Today we called on the ministry to only consider imports (of whale meat) after confirming its safety.”
The nongovernmental organizations said they were especially concerned about mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls.
Government officials said they are cobbling together a system for testing meat exported from Norway and hope to test at least one sample from each whale imported.
The nongovernmental groups also expressed doubts about Japanese mercury and PCB food standards, pointing out they were created nearly 30 years ago and are much less stringent than those in other countries. Officials said it is currently reviewing its pollution standards but has no timeline for revising them.
The groups released a Greenpeace Germany study of blubber from minke whales killed by Norwegian whalers that averaged 3.7 parts per million of PCBs, exceeding Japan’s food safety standard of .5 parts per million for offshore animals and 3 ppm for coastal fish.
The Fisheries Agency is working with the Norwegian government on a framework to allow whale meat to be imported later this year.
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