TOKYO, Jan 5 (Reuters) - Fukushima rice passed Japan’s radiation checks for the first time since the 2011 nuclear disaster that prompted international alarm over the region’s produce, a prefectural official said.
Fukushima official Tsuneaki Oonami said about 360,000 tonnes of rice, nearly all of last year’s harvest, had been checked and none had tested above the 100 becquerels per kilogram limit set by the government.
“The fact that the amount of rice that does not pass our checks has steadily reduced in the last three years indicates that we’re taking the right steps,” said Oonami, who heads the department that oversees Fukushima rice farming.
Miniscule amounts of rice produced in 2012 and 2013 failed to pass radiation checks and had to be destroyed.
Farmers and fishermen in Fukushima were hit hardest by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that set off meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s nuclear plant and forced Japan to suspend some agricultural and fisheries exports.
Japan has since lifted export restrictions, although repeated contaminated water leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant prompted South Korea to ban imports from eight regions including Fukushima prefecture in 2013.
South Korean experts visited the Fukushima nuclear plant and Japan’s radiation testing facilities last month as Seoul considers resuming imports. Japan’s fisheries agency said on Monday the South Korean experts were planning to return this month for additional inspections. (Reporting by Mari Saito; Editing by Stephen Coates)