Since the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Greenpeace has been working on the ground in Fukushima prefecture, providing independent information on contamination levels.  More recently, we’ve been testing fish and shellfish (details in Japanese) from five supermarket chains in seven Japanese cities, and what we found gives cause for concern.

We found radioactive contamination in just over half the samples (details in Japanese), highlighting problems with the official government monitoring of Japan’s seafood, and again underscoring its inadequate efforts to protect the health and safety of its people. Up to 88 becquerel per kg of caesium was found in 34 of the 60 samples – that’s well below Japan’s official limits of 500 becquerel per kg, but not so far from the 150 becquerel limit set in Ukraine following Chernobyl.

Despite being below these limits, the contaminated seafood still represents a health risk, particularly for pregnant women and children, and it is putting those far beyond Fukushima at risk as the seafood is shipped to supermarkets far and wide.

Protecting public health and safety during a crisis such as this requires absolute transparency and clear advice. As Japan’s seafood is not being labeled, consumers have no idea if it has been screened, and they are unable to make informed decisions about their seafood purchases. It’s little wonder why the Japanese people are so worried about what they eat.

One supermarket has implemented its own monitoring, but unfortunately, this is no replacement for comprehensive, consistent government screening and labeling. An official, national system is essential to protecting public health, restoring confidence in the food system, and helping the fishing industry recover. This should already be in place given it has been over seven months since this crisis began.

Greenpeace has submitted formal requests to the Consumer Affairs
 Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries, the Ministry of Health, and the Japan Chain Stores Association asking that
 seafood product screening and labeling be significantly improved (letters in Japanese).

Protecting people means protecting their health and their livelihoods – Japan’s government must start conducting proper, effective screening and  labelling of seafood, as part of the ongoing recovery from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

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**Photograph from Greenpeace seafood testing carried out at sea in May 2011: Ike Teuling, radiation safety advisor for Greenpeace International, and Giorgia Monti of Greenpeace Italy, examine fish samples (mackerel) on the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior to monitor radiation levels, as the ship sails up the eastern coast of Japan on her way to Fukushima. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Greenpeace