The government has instructed the boards of education of 17 eastern and northeastern prefectures to set the upper limit on radioactive substance exposure for food and drink served in school meals at 40 becquerels per kilogram, officials said Thursday.
The directive on meals offered at elementary and junior high schools is the first issued by the central government since the Fukushima nuclear crisis was triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
The threshold is one-fifth of the current provisional limit on radioactive cesium for items of general consumption — 200 becquerels per kilogram for drinking water, milk and dairy products.
The maximum allowable amount for rice, vegetables, meat and fish is set at 500 becquerels per kilogram.
The officials of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said they newly set the criteria for school meals as the government plans to lower the upper limit of annual internal exposure to radioactive cesium through food and drink consumption to 1 millisievert from the current provisional threshold of 5 millisieverts.
The 17 prefectures include Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tokyo, Niigata, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka.
The ministry has earmarked about ¥100 million in the third extra budget for the current fiscal year to cover part of the cost to purchase dosimeters to detect radiation amounts in meals at schools in the 17 prefectures, according to the officials.
Under the directive, municipal governments are requested to buy equipment that can detect radiation levels in food and drink below 40 becquerels and to stop serving items with radioactive substances that exceed the upper limit, the officials said.