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Radioactive Japanese oatmeal discovered in Hong Kong

By Mark Astley , 02-Aug-2012

An oatmeal product, manufactured in and imported from Japan, has been found to contain low levels of radioactivity by food safety authorities in Hong Kong.

Officials from the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department discovered levels of radioactive caesium-137 in the Japan-manufactured oatmeal product, which was discovered in a supermarket.

The CFS has been conducting daily tests for radioactivity on food imported from Japan at import, wholesale and retail levels since 12 March 2011, following a incident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

The product, Nihonshokuhin Premium Pure Oatmeal 300g pack, was manufactured by Nippon Food Manufacturer in Hokkaido – more than 500 miles from Fukushima.

No recall

Despite the detection, the Hong Kong CFS has declined to recall the product – claiming that dietary exposure to the oats would cause no adverse health effects.

Codex Alimentarius Commission guideline levels are set at 1,000 Becquerel per kilogram (Bq/kg) for caesium-137 in foods other than infant formula.

Tests on a Nihonshokuhin Premium Pure Oatmeal sample found caesium-137 at levels of 7Bq/kg.

“The oats sample was collected from a local supermarket for radiation testing under the regular Food Surveillance Program,” a CFS spokesman confirmed.

“The internal dose of radioactive substances of high consumers from consuming the oats sample for one year is approximately 0.003 millisievert (mSv), far less than the radiation dose received during a chest X-ray examination (about 0.05 mSv).”

Nevertheless, the CFS announced the test results in view of public concern about radioactivity in food products from Japan.

“The CFS will continue to closely monitor information from Japan as well as the radiation testing results of Japanese food products in Hong Kong and elsewhere. It will review and adjust, if necessary, the surveillance strategy on food products imported from Japan in a timely manner, making reference to the recommendations of international authorities, to safeguard food safety,” said the CFS spokesman.

Nuclear disaster

The CFS stepped up its surveillance of food imported from Japan on the 12 March 2011 – the day after a nuclear incident at the Fukushima power plant in Japan.

The incident, which eventually led to a meltdown at the plant, followed an earthquake and tsunami that devastated large parts of Japan. The event is now regarded as the largest nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

In December 2011, Meiji Holdings Co announced that levels of caesium-134 and caesium-137 had been detected in its Meiji Step baby milk powder.

The firm, which is Japan's biggest dairy player, recalled 400,000 units of the product following the detection.

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