January 18, 2012

 

Japanese dairy companies to reveal milk inspection results
 

 

To be able to relieve concerns over radioactive contamination, Japanese dairy companies plan to inspect milk on their own and disclose findings to the public, industry officials said Tuesday (Jan 17).

 

The effort, led by the Japan Dairy Industry Association, a group of 19 major dairy firms including Meiji Co., Megmilk Snow Brand Co. and Morinaga Milk Industry Co., will come on top of similar inspections being conducted by local governments following the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake and tsunami last March 11.

 

Governments, for their part, are considering toughening their inspection regime by checking milk every week, rather than the current roughly once every two weeks, for traces of radioactive materials in dairy products.

 

The initiative reflects the ''need from those involved in school lunch programmes and from consumers,'' an association official said, adding that the group is working out details, such as inspection steps and when the companies will begin disclosing their findings.

 

So far, local governments have inspected raw milk at collection points and disclosed their findings on the Internet. They have not disclosed the names of producers or their products found to contain radioactive materials, or the names of the schools consuming the milk for lunches.

 

In parts of Miyagi Prefecture in December, raw milk was found to contain up to 22 becquerels of radioactive cesium per one kilogramme, a level considered high but not high enough to immediately affect people's heath.

 

Milk served during school lunches has also been inspected in some areas. In October, for example, milk that would have been served to students in Musashino, Tokyo, was found to contain seven becquerels per kilogramme.

 

While the reading was far lower than the government-set provisional ceiling of 200 becquerels per kilogramme, the milk was withdrawn from lunches at the request of concerned parents.

 

The move by the association came after the Health, Labour and Welfare Ministry urged it and two other dairy industry groups late last month to check milk and disclose the findings to the public on the grounds parents have a heightened concern about milk their children drink.

 

The remaining two groups said they are still considering taking such action.

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