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Government slammed over monitoring of Japanese seafood

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Published : 2013-08-18 20:57
Updated : 2013-08-18 20:57

Debate is brewing over the authorities’ monitoring of seafood imported from Japan due to radiation fears as a far stricter watch is being applied on agricultural products.

Seafood contaminated by radiation leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant has been found in the local market recently, adding to public fears about the after effects of the 2011 disaster.

About 3,010 tons of fish requested for import declaration has been found to contain radioactive cesium since March 11, 2011, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.

However, the food ministry was found not to have carried out additional inspections nor tightened return procedures, after radioactive materials were detected.

“They were below the threshold level, which causes no problem for market distribution,” an official from the ministry was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.

While most products had below 10 becquerels of radiocesium (134Cs and 137Cs) per kilogram, some products showed up to 98 becquerels ― just two becquerels less than the level considered unsafe.

However, the same approach has not been taken with agricultural products, which have been sent back to Japan immediately if even tiny traces of radioactive materials were detected.

“Seafood easily rots, but it’s imported in a large quantity at an expensive price. It’s difficult to go through a test that takes about 60 days,” the official added.

The government’s stance has sparked strong public backlash.

“Even if the government explains that it’s a small amount of radioactive materials, who would eat that if they knew that it could be dangerous?” a Twitter user (@Tipstory) wrote on his account on Sunday.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. has recently confirmed long-held suspicions that the sea had been contaminated by the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. TEPCO officials explained about 300 tons of radioactive water was leaking every day into the Pacific Ocean.

The Japanese government plans to remove 300 tons of groundwater per day by December as part of a cleanup, which experts expect will take more than 40 years and cost $11 billion.

By Suk Gee-hyun (monicasuk@heraldcorp.com)

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