Fukushima school meals clear cesium safety limit in 2014/2015

2 December 2015

Samples of all 3,408 school meals served for lunch in 26 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture cleared a safety limit for radioactive cesium in fiscal 2014 through last March and in the first half of fiscal 2015, according to the results of monitoring by the prefecture’s education board. A prefectural government official in charge of testing for radioactive substances said radioactive cesium content in farm produce appears to have become “extremely small” in the wake of progress in decontamination work in areas affected by the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

In the school lunch monitoring, a measurement of 1 becquerel per kilogram is set as the lowest detectable limit. In fiscal 2012, the prefectural government’s department of environmental conservation for agriculture examined samples of 1,962 school meals served in the same 26 municipalities and detected 1 Bq/kg or more in 14 of them. The samples showed a maximum reading of 2.53 Bq but this was a 40th of the highest allowable level of 100 Bq specified by the Food Sanitation Act.

In fiscal 2013, the department measured samples of 2,480 meals in 23 municipalities and detected 1 Bq or more in six of them. Their maximum measurement was 1.28 Bq. Both the number of meals exceeding the lower limit and the maximum reading were almost half the previous year’s levels. The department checked samples of 2,859 meals in fiscal 2014 and those of 549 meals in the April-September period of fiscal 2015 but there was no sample exceeding 1 Bq in both cases.

The monitoring has been conducted for sample school meals provided by municipalities desiring to have them checked. Meanwhile, simplified tests are undertaken daily in cooking areas of feeding centers that supply school meals and it has been confirmed that radioactive cesium levels at these facilities are less than 100 Bq.

According to the department that undertakes tests for radioactive substances, reasons for not detecting radioactive cesium in school meals include the established practice of strict food examination ranging from production to distribution, progress in decontamination work, and the spread of techniques among farmers to curb the absorption of radioactive cesium from soil by agricultural crops.

Ryugo Hayano, a University of Tokyo professor who has been surveying the effects of radiation from the nuclear disaster on the food life and health of Fukushima residents, said radioactive cesium content in school meals will remain undetected or, even if detected, will be no more than the lowest limit.

(Translated by Kyodo News)