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Embassy News

Fact Sheet on Safety of Food and Water

The U.S. Embassy recognizes that food and water safety in some areas of Japan has been a concern for U.S. citizens since the March 11 disaster. Here are answers to some commonly-asked questions.

Are food and water safe in Japan?

U.S. government experts have met with Japanese experts and reviewed available documents and data from the Japanese food safety system, including Japan’s efforts to protect the food and water supply from radioactive contamination. As a result, U.S. government experts have concluded that the Government of Japan has the resources and technical capabilities to identify and quarantine contaminated food and water before they reach consumers. U.S. government experts also believe that the food safety system is sound and the Government of Japan is taking appropriate steps to ensure the safety of the food and water supply.

How do Japanese standards for food safety compare to U.S. and international standards?

Japan’s established standards for radioactive contamination in food are based on the same target doses for radiological protection as those of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Japan’s approach is consistent with international guidance, uses up-to-date radiological risk data, and applies conservative (i.e., protective) assumptions.

How is the Government of Japan protecting the food supply?

Since March 11, the Government of Japan has undertaken to test every category of food in order to make timely and appropriate decisions to ensure a safe food supply. Upon finding any cases of food contaminated above guidance levels, Japanese authorities have taken action by immediately blocking the distribution of that class of food within the affected prefecture. Affected products have been subjected to continuous monitoring and have only been allowed back onto the market when they have passed three consecutive tests.

How is the Government of Japan protecting the water supply?

Because radioactive materials in the air can enter the drinking water supply, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has instructed water purification plants nationwide to stop using rainwater as a drinking water source. In addition, local governments in Japan are testing drinking water regularly to see if Iodine-131 and other radioactive materials from the Fukushima plant have entered the water supply. The government is measuring the level of radioactive materials in drinking water to determine if it is within the limits Japanese authorities set to protect public health following the March 11 disaster. When levels exceed the established limits, the Japanese government will advise people to drink bottled water for a short time, until levels are once again within the limits. Contamination levels have not exceeded Japan’s drinking water standards since May 10, 2011, when the last restriction was lifted.

How does the Government of Japan protect the safety of seafood?

Most fishing in Fukushima prefecture has been suspended, and no fishing vessels are allowed within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima reactors because of Japanese Coast Guard restrictions. Japanese authorities monitor seafood as it is landed by fishing vessels. In addition, they are collecting comprehensive samples of organic material in three layers of the ocean (surface, middle, and deep) in order to assess any specific impact on species that live in each habitat. At least once a week, two to three species are caught in each layer. Government officials collect the samples at the docks from commercial fishermen. The government has also created a plan whereby migratory fish will be targeted during their season. Government research vessels will conduct sampling before commercial fishing is allowed.

Where can I get more information?

Government of Japan Sources (in English):

U.S. Government Sources: