46.4% of Fukushima residents back extended blanket rice testing

5 February 2019

A survey of Fukushima Prefecture residents has found 46.4% favor continued radiation screening of all bags of new rice grown there, below 50% for the first time since 2015 when questions on the topic were first included in the annual poll. The results of the survey for fiscal 2018, ending in March, were announced Feb. 4 by the Fukushima Prefecture Liaison Committee of Consumer Organizations.

The group has been canvassing residents in connection with various aspects of the reputation of local food, following damage sustained by the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, among other topics. The prefectural government plans to drop blanket testing in favor of random sampling, but the survey shows demand for the present screening formula remains strong.

In March last year, the local government indicated it would consider moving to random testing of new rice, except for crops in areas around the crippled nuclear plant, beginning with 2020 harvests at the earliest, if radioactive cesium content in rice does not exceed the standard 100 becquerels per kilogram, set under the Food Sanitation Act, for five straight years. In response to the move, the committee asked prefectural residents about their thoughts on continuing the blanket screening, drawing replies from 1,400 people.

The proportion of respondents supporting blanket testing has been decreasing after topping 80% in fiscal 2015. The latest figure represented a fall of 19.8 percentage points from a year earlier. But the ratio of those favoring blanket screening was the largest of all response categories, as was the case with the previous three surveys.

Those in favor of blanket checks were also asked how many more years they think are required until ending such screening. The largest group, 34.6%, cited “one to three years,” followed by “10 years or more” chosen by 29.8%, and “five to 10 years” by 28.8%.

Of other choices on screening methods, “sampling checks in every city, town and village” was selected by 22.4%, up 7.8 points from the previous survey, and “sampling checks for every farming family” by 20.2%, up 4.6 points. These respondents seeking a shift to sampling inspection added up to 42.6%. “Not all rice needs to be tested” was supported by 10.2%, up 7.0 points and topping 10% for the first time.

*Survey method: The Fukushima Prefecture Liaison Committee of Consumer Organizations, comprising nine consumer groups in the prefecture, distributed questionnaire sheets through group members to 1,500 local residents aged 10 or older, and 1,400 responded. Male respondents accounted for 403 and females 997. Constituting the largest generational bracket were respondents in their 70s, numbering 382, while the smallest segment was those in their 20s, totaling 70. The respondents resided in the following 23 cities, towns and villages: Fukushima, Aizuwakamatsu, Koriyama, Iwaki, Shirakawa, Sukagawa, Kitakata, Soma, Nihonmatsu, Tamura, Minamisoma, Date, Motomiya, Koori, Kawamata, Otama, Minamiaizu, Aizumisato, Nishigo, Yabuki, Ishikawa, Miharu and Namie.

(Translated by Kyodo News)