Radioactive chemical found in Fukushima honey: Japanese media - The Korea Times
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Radioactive chemical found in Fukushima honey: Japanese media

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Chefs sent to Tokyo by the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee make meals for Korea's athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics on July 20. Yonhap
Chefs sent to Tokyo by the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee make meals for Korea's athletes participating in the Tokyo Olympics on July 20. Yonhap

By Ko Dong-hwan

Caesium, a radioactive chemical, has been found in honey collected near Fukushima in an amount larger than Japan's national health standard, raising concerns about food safety in and around the city.

The honey manufactured by a local beekeeping cooperative in the Namie township of Fukushima Prefecture contained from 130 to 160 becquerels (bq) of the chemical per kilogram, according to a July 23 report from Japan's daily news outlet Yomiuri Shimbun. The amount exceeded the country's national standard of 100 bq.

The radioactive chemical is believed to have originated from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, in which reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma in the prefecture were damaged by the Tohoku earthquake and the following tsunami. The accident caused three nuclear meltdowns and the release of radioactive contamination in three of the plant's reactors. Radiation was then released into the air, and large amounts of water contaminated with radioactive isotopes were released into the Pacific Ocean.

Namie is just 12.7 kilometers north of the disaster site. Caesium from the disaster was believed to have been spread to the township through northwesterly winds.

Yomiuri Shimbun said it was the first time that caesium was found in honey from Fukushima in an amount exceeding the national health standard. The newspaper added that at least 1,400 products containing the honey have been sold at train stations and shops in the prefecture since last June. The municipality said they will recall those products, the report said.

The discovery came after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's administration has repeatedly assured people that food products from Fukushima are safe to eat, in order to mitigate international concerns, particularly from Korea's national team, since before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23.

Despite the Japanese government's efforts, some of the countries participating in the summer games decided to supply their national athletes with food cooked with ingredients from their home countries, instead of the local dishes provided by Japan's Olympic organizers.

The Athletes' Village in Tokyo has two dining venues. One of them reportedly uses food ingredients from Fukushima as well as Iwate and Miyagi prefectures. Having learned this, the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee rented a hotel near Athletes' Village and sent 24 nutritionists and chefs to make meals for Korea's athletes starting July 20.

The United States also revealed its plans to cook over 7,000 special meals for its athletes with its own food ingredients, weighing over 32 tons in total, according to local reports. However, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee did not specify that its reasons for doing so were due to concerns about radioactive contamination, specifically.

Japan pointed fingers at no other country but Korea as to such meal preparation plans for its athletes. Japanese Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games Marukawa Tamayo said on July 20 in a press conference that Korea didn't have to ship in from home domestically produced ingredients because the local produce in Fukushima is safe. Japan's media outlets and lawmakers also criticized Korea for not using Japan's local food ingredients.

Ko Dong-hwan

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