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Despite rumors, Fukushima food safety concerns ease inside prefecture

17 May 2015

[Translated by The Japan Times] Some 78.1 percent of Fukushima residents bought local food goods in fiscal 2014 rather than produce harvested in other prefectures, up about 10 percentage points from the year before, a survey conducted by the prefectural consumers’ group association shows.

The survey indicates that safety concerns among residents about food harvested in the prefecture are easing despite persistent rumors since the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The survey also showed that more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they had purchased processed food made from Fukushima ingredients.

Despite this bump inside the prefecture, consumers outside have tended to avoid food produced in Fukushima, calling for continued safety screening.

The questionnaire was distributed to 1,100 people, including some members of the consumers’ group, of whom 1,045, or 95 percent, responded. Respondents came from the cities and towns of Fukushima, Aizuwakamatsu, Koriyama, Iwaki, Shirakawa, Sukagawa, Soma, Nihonmatsu, Minamisoma, Date, Motomiya, Koori, Kawamata, Minamiaizu, Aizumisato, Nishigo, Izumizaki and Namie.

Of the total, 237 were male and 808 were female. Around 28.4 percent were in the 60s, while those in their 20s to 40s comprised 22.1 percent.

When asked which local produce they most often purchased, 63.6 percent said they bought goods harvested near their residences, while 14.5 percent said they bought produce from inside the prefecture but not harvested near their home, the survey said.

Another 12.7 percent said they purchased produce harvested in neighboring prefectures, while 8.0 percent said they bought domestically harvested products that were not from Fukushima or neighboring prefectures, the survey showed.

Those who said they most often purchased overseas produce came to 0.4 percent, putting the number of those surveyed who mainly purchased produce from outside of Fukushima at more than 20 percent.

Respondents who most frequently purchased produce harvested near their residence shot up 14.4 percentage points from the year before. In contrast, those who usually bought food from neighboring prefectures fell 5.4 percentage points. Those who bought food produced domestically but not in Fukushima or neighboring prefectures decreased 5.7 percentage points, the poll showed.

According to the survey, 43.9 percent said the reason they bought processed food using Fukushima produce was because they believed it safe, while 27.2 percent cited its taste and 16.7 percent said they were supporting local industry. Those who said they rarely buy such produce stood at 8.9 percent.

Although the association said it didn’t have an accurate analysis of each age bracket’s consumer behavior, those in their 20s to 40s tended to buy products from outside the prefecture in fiscal 2012, when the first survey was conducted.

However, in the latest survey more of those in the same age bracket said they were purchasing Fukushima produce.

“Although more people in each age category seem to feel that (local Fukushima products) are safe, there are people who still avoid them,” said Yoshiko Tasaki, 59, the association’s executive. “We’re still seeing bipolar tendencies.”

The survey also covered Fukushima residents’ thoughts on the risks of low-level radiation exposure.

To compare the mindset of consumers in Fukushima and those outside the prefecture, the association asked the same questions as in a nationwide Consumer Affairs Agency’s questionnaire.

When asked their thoughts on the risks of exposure to radiation levels so low that health effects weren’t detected, 18.1 percent still said it is unacceptable even if it is within approved limits, down 12.9 percentage points from the previous year.

The corresponding figure in the Consumer Affairs Agency survey was 21.0 percent, up 2.1 percentage points, demonstrating a gap between those inside and outside the prefecture.

In fiscal 2015, which began April 1, one of the Fukushima Prefectural Government’s top priorities has been to dispel harmful rumors about local food products by promoting the safety of its agricultural produce at a variety of events.

“At present, people outside the prefecture and those overseas still (have concerns over the safety of foods in Fukushima),” said an official in charge of promoting its products at the prefectural office. “We’d like to believe that the best way to tackle the issue and promote our products is by providing accurate information (to consumers).”

14 May 2015

RockCorps concert to be held for 2nd straight year in Fukushima Pref.

RockCorps, a worldwide music event aimed at inspiring people to take part in volunteer activities, will be held for the second straight year in Japan, mainly in Fukushima Prefecture as last year, with a wrap-up concert scheduled for Sept. 5 at the Azuma General Gymnasium in Fukushima city.

This year's event, whose official name is "RockCorps supported by JT 2015," will be organized by an executive committee and co-hosted by the Fukushima prefectural government, with special cooperation offered by Japan Tobacco Inc. and supported by AiiA Corp. and Fukushima Transportation Inc.

Volunteer activities to be promoted at the event include those for local industry assistance, environmental restoration and livelihood support implemented by 20 organizations and municipalities of Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Tokyo prefectures. In Fukushima Prefecture, participants will become eligible for tickets for the concert by taking part in four hours of volunteer activities starting on June 1. Volunteers should be aged 20 and above and can apply on the event's website.

Stephen Greene, co-founder and CEO of RockCorps, said that music gives hope to people and that the event will draw many people to Fukushima.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

12 May 2015

Fukushima city kindergarteners' physical capabilities on par with national levels

The physical capabilities of kindergarteners in Fukushima city do not differ greatly from nationwide levels, according to a final report on physical ability tests conducted in fiscal 2014 on about 700 kindergarten pupils in the city. "We do not see extreme deterioration in the physical and athletic capabilities attributable to effects of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant," said an official of the city’s association of municipal and private kindergartens, which compiled the examination results.

The tests were conducted on older kindergarten children, both male and female, attending 20 nursery schools registered with the association. They were held twice -- on 715 pupils in the first fiscal half, between May and September 2014, and on 641 toddlers in the second half, between December 2014 and March 2015, and the report involved new results from the latter-half period.

The average scores for the 20 kindergartens in Fukushima and nationwide statistics in five events are listed in the chart. For boys, the Fukushima kindergarteners' scores surpassed national averages in three events -- zigzag run, vertical jump and grip strength. For girls, the scores for children in Fukushima were better than national averages in four events – forward bending in a long sitting position, zigzag run, vertical jump and grip strength. The tests also measured the children's height and weight, and their averages for Fukushima were almost the same as those for the whole country, and there was no propensity for obesity among the Fukushima children.

The tests were consigned to the Infant Physical Education Laboratory in Tokyo, and their results were compared with figures for about 3,000 older children at 382 kindergartens across the nation who underwent the same tests under the guidance of the laboratory.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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