Ratio of consumers hesitating to buy Fukushima food hits new record low

8 March 2018

The proportion of consumers who listed Fukushima Prefecture as an area of food production they hesitate to buy from stood at a new record low of 12.7% in a government agency survey taken in February, falling below the previous record low of 13.2% logged in the preceding poll in August last year. The finding was among the results of the 11th survey on consumer awareness about radioactive substances in food announced by the Consumer Affairs Agency on March 7.

The survey has been conducted semiannually since February 2013 covering residents in Tokyo, Osaka and other urban areas as well as in regions hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The latest survey, taken on Feb. 1-5 over the Internet, collected answers from 5,176 consumers.

Of the respondents, 32.6% cited "difference in quality (taste) according to production area" as a reason for caring about where food is produced. The ratio of consumers replying that they "want to buy food without it containing radioactive materials" has been sagging since the eighth survey in August 2016, hitting another new low of 16.2% in the latest survey.

On the other hand, 36.0% did not know tests are being conducted to detect radioactive substances in food. The proportion of respondents similarly replying has been hovering around a level slightly below 40% since the sixth survey in August 2015.

The findings "reveal a weakening sense of wariness over radioactive substances contained in food, and that a cautious feeling toward products from disaster-affected areas is also diminishing," an agency official said. But the official believes that information on radioactive materials, tests on them and other matters have not spread fully, adding that the agency will continue aggressive efforts to send out precise information on food safety.

The agency also published the same day the results of its first survey on awareness over food safety in connection with radioactive substances. It showed that 18.1% of respondents buy at least one of four categories of Fukushima-produced food (vegetables/fruit, rice, beef and seafood). As reasons for doing so, the largest proportion -- 40.9% -- said they "want to support the prefecture and producers," followed by 38.3% who cited "tastiness," 27.3% who "understand the safety" and 22.3% who said it is "because tests are being conducted for radioactive substances."

Meanwhile, 18.5% do not buy any food in the four categories, with the largest ratio of 42.5% giving "no particular reason," followed by 33.2% who see no such food on sale in daily life. More than 10% -- 13.9% -- cited anxiety about radioactive materials. On the other hand, nearly half the respondents -- 46.7% -- said they do not know at all whether or not they have purchased Fukushima products in the four categories, while 16.8% do not buy or are uncertain if they have bought them.

On the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant, the agency sought to grasp the current state of consumer awareness not confirmed by conventional surveys. Responding to the first awareness survey were 7,050 people in all 47 prefectures across Japan.

(Translated by Kyodo News)