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Although the issue of how to address people’s concerns about radioactive contamination was not among those taken up ahead of the Democratic Party of Japan’s presidential election, if you ask the nation’s housewives, especially those with children, what they expect of the new administration is that it ensures food safety. That’s at the top of the list.

Each time I go to a supermarket, I pause in front of the shelves, at a loss as to what to buy. I choose food that comes from as far away from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as possible. I wonder if I am overreacting. Why not buy food that has proven to be safe for consumption?

But that may depend on who you ask. Some experts seem to think that consumers like me are reacting rationally, given the flaws of the current system for checking radioactivity in food.

Among the flaws pointed out by the experts, the one that worries me the most is that there is no centralized system for checking radioactivity in food, leaving local municipalities, in some cases, and agricultural cooperatives to conduct tests. As some experts have pointed out, testing by an agricultural cooperative with an obvious interest in the outcome may lead to arbitrary procedures, such as avoidance of tests after it rains.

Unless the government mends these flaws to make the system function as a safeguard to keep food contaminated with excessive radioactive material from being put on the shelves, consumers will continue to shun food from particular areas.

As has been highlighted by the beef cattle case, it is the failure on the part of the government to think ahead and take necessary measures — not consumers’ irrational fear of radiation — that is aggravating the situation.

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The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

yasuko okayama

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