Retail outlet displays radiation levels of produce

October 24, 2011

By CHISATO YOKOTA / Staff Writer

Instead of dietary fiber and calories, a retailer in Tokyo is displaying levels of radioactive cesium found in its fruits and vegetables, to alleviate any concerns about radioactive materials on produce.

Along with the price, the outlet, run by Cataloghouse Ltd. in Tokyo's Shinbashi district, displays the cesium level found in the fruit or vegetable.

If the radiation detection device installed in the outlet detects radioactive iodine or cesium in any produce, the figure is displayed next to the produce. The device can detect radiation levels of at least 10 becquerels per kilogram.

Kunihiko Takeda, a professor of engineering at Chubu University, said displaying the level is good for both the consumer and the retailer.

"Just saying 'it's safe' will only create a sense of distrust," Takeda said. "If there is a display, consumers can purchase items even from Fukushima (Prefecture) after they are convinced. That would also be for the benefit of producers."

A 37-year-old housewife who purchased grapes that were detected to have 22 becquerels of cesium said, "I am more assured because they conduct testing and display the results."

The outlet has a special corner where it sells produce from Fukushima Prefecture. The area features 22 fruits and vegetables produced by J-Rap Inc., a group of farmers in Fukushima, and sells rice produced by the group from before the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Because consumers began avoiding vegetables grown in Fukushima Prefecture after radiation fallout from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, store officials decided to help the group by selling produce while displaying the radiation levels.

Customers are provided with a list of radiation level standards established by various nations. The list includes the figures for the Ukraine, which has established standards much stricter than those in Japan following the Chernobyl accident in 1986. For example, while the radiation levels for fruits and vegetables in Japan are 500 becquerels per kilogram, in the Ukraine the levels are 40 becquerels for vegetables and 70 becquerels for fruits.

Store officials are considering separating produce if levels exceeding those in the Ukraine are ever detected and displaying the produce as "within Ukrainian standards" and "within Japanese standards."

An official of the company that operates the outlet, said, "While in the end consumers will have to make the decision, there is a need to disclose information and provide customers with choices."

Many retail outlets are not displaying the results of tests or setting their own standards on the grounds that anything falling under the government standard is considered safe.

However, some companies that deliver produce directly to consumers are setting their own standards because members tend to have a greater interest in food safety.

Radishboya Co. delivers organic produce to members and has set its own standards from September that are one-tenth the government standards.

Another delivery company, Pal System Co., established standards from October that were one-fifth those of government standards. It will not deliver any produce that exceeds its own standards.

By CHISATO YOKOTA / Staff Writer
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Levels of radioactive cesium are written alongside the price of fruits and vegetables at the Tokyo outlet of Cataloghouse. (Hikaru Uchida)

Levels of radioactive cesium are written alongside the price of fruits and vegetables at the Tokyo outlet of Cataloghouse. (Hikaru Uchida)

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  • Levels of radioactive cesium are written alongside the price of fruits and vegetables at the Tokyo outlet of Cataloghouse. (Hikaru Uchida)

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