Fukushima prefecture plans to scale down radioactivity screening for its rice and beef cattle, which was initiated due to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Although the prefecture is screening all cattle and all rice, it’s been a long time since any item was found to exceed the reference value of 100 becquerels per 1 kilogram. The prefecture will now transition to selective screening, in which samples of items are selected for screening. Even though the workload of the workers will be reduced, even nine years after the accident many remain concerned about damage from rumors regarding radioactivity.
After the March 11 accident, most of Fukushima’s agricultural and fisheries products, such as vegetables and fish, have been shipped to market after selective screening. For rice and beef cattle, there were disparities among growers or locations in countermeasures taken for radioactive substances. Some rice and beef cattle were found with radioactivity exceeding the standard value in fall 2011 and July 2011, respectively. As a result, the screening system was changed to one in which all items are screened to “ensure that nothing exceeds the reference value,” says a prefectural official.
The total screening of beef cattle began in August 2011. Since then, over 170,000 cattle have been screened but none have been found with radioactivity exceeding the reference value. The prefecture switched to a selective screening system in April 2020, where every livestock farmer must screen at least one head of cattle annually.
The total screening of rice began with the 2012 crop. Since the 2015 crop, none was found to exceed the national reference value. All cities and towns other than those under evacuation orders from the power plant accident will switch to selective screening from the fall of 2020.
Some local farmers express concerns over the change in screening method. A cattle farmer in Kitakata City, Fukushima, says, “We don’t know how consumers will react to the reduced screening.”