90% of consumers “not” or “less” worried about Fukushima food

27 May 2017

Asked about the safety of food produced in Fukushima Prefecture in connection with the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, some 90% of consumers in the Tokyo metropolitan region said they “have had no anxiety since the disaster” or “have become less worried with the lapse of time,” according to an awareness survey taken in 2016 by the Fukushima Prefectural Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives. On the other hand, about 20% replied they “will not buy depending on products.” This shows that “efforts to test radioactive substances in food have not yet been understood sufficiently,” the union said. It will urge the prefectural and central governments to make further efforts, including the transmission of information on food safety that is easier to understand.

The survey was first conducted in 2015 and again in 2016. The results of both surveys were published on May 26.

According to a tally based on the 2016 survey, the largest proportion of respondents, 58.3%, said they “have had no anxiety since the disaster” compared with 55.6% in 2015. They were followed by 31.4% who “have become less worried along with the lapse of time” (32.9% in 2015) while 9.5% “remain as anxious as at the time of the disaster” (10.2%).

As for the purchase of Fukushima food, 81.3% said they buy for one reason or another (83.6%) while 18.7% “don’t buy depending on products” (17.5%).

According to a detailed analysis of the survey results, 38 respondents, or 6.6% of the 574 who “have had no anxiety since the disaster,” and 71 or 23.0% of the 309 who “have become less worried with the lapse of time” -- or a total of 109 respondents (12.3%) -- said they “don’t buy depending on products.” Given the data, the union believes there is a certain percentage of consumers who refrain from purchasing Fukushima food for some reason even though they are not worried in general.

When the consumers who said they “don’t buy depending on products” were asked about information they want to know regarding Fukushima food, the greatest number of 72 checked “the outcome of tests on radioactive substances,” followed by “easy-to-understand information on standard figures (under the Food Sanitation Act)” marked by 63 and “measures against radioactive substances at the stage of production” chosen by 44. The respondents were allowed to pick multiple answers.

According to questionnaire surveys taken in February last year in five places -- Tokyo metropolitan area, area in and around Osaka, area in and around Nagoya, Hokkaido and Okinawa -- by the prefectural government on agricultural products produced in Fukushima, 51.9% of consumers had the impression of being “able to eat them with peace of mind.”

(Note)The surveys by the Fukushima Prefectural Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives were conducted in November 2015 and the same month in 2016 at the venue of each event held in Tokyo. Questionnaires were handed out to visiting consumers in their teens or older and collected on the spot.

(Translated by Kyodo News)