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Friday, Jan. 20, 2012

Dairy firms to do own fallout checks


Major dairy companies plan to inspect milk on their own and disclose the findings to the public to help address concerns over radioactive contamination, according to industry officials.

The effort, led by the Japan Dairy Industry Association, a group of 19 major firms including Meiji Co., Megmilk Snow Brand Co. and Morinaga Milk Industry Co., will be in addition to inspections being conducted by local governments due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The local governments meanwhile are considering boosting their checks to every week instead of the current rate of roughly every two weeks, for traces of radioactive materials.

The industry's initiative reflects the "need from those involved in school lunch programs and from consumers," an association official said.

The details are still being worked out, such as how the inspections will be carried out and when the companies will begin disclosing their findings.

So far, local governments have inspected raw milk at collection points and disclosed their findings on the Internet. They have not disclosed the names of producers or their products found to contain radioactive materials, or the names of the schools using the milk for lunches.

In parts of Miyagi Prefecture in December, raw milk was found to contain up to 22 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, a level considered high but not high enough to immediately affect people's heath.

Milk served with school lunches has also been inspected in some areas. In October, for example, milk that would have been served to students in Musashino, Tokyo, was found to contain 7 becquerels per kilogram.

While the reading was far lower than the government's provisional ceiling of 200 becquerels, the milk was not served at the request of parents.

The move by the Japan Dairy Industry Association came after the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry urged it and two other dairy industry groups late last month to check milk and disclose the findings to the public because parents are worried about the milk their children drink. The other two groups said they are still considering taking such action.

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