TOKYO, Feb. 1 (Kyodo) — Major dairy companies will inspect their milk products made in 17 prefectures in northeastern to central Japan for radioactive contamination and disclose their findings to the public at the end of February, the Japan Dairy Industry Association said Wednesday.
The checks by the association's 19 member firms, including Meiji Co., Megmilk Snow Brand Co. and Morinaga Milk Industry Co., will come on top of similar inspections on raw milk being conducted by local governments in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The decision comes amid heightened concerns among consumers about possible contamination by radioactive materials released into the air and sea by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, especially parents of young children as milk is typically served during school lunches in Japan.
The firms will inspect samples at about 180 plants in the 17 prefectures this month. The association will then gather the results and disclose the findings including the plants' names, manufacturing dates and the levels of radioactive cesium detected.
The prefectures span from Aomori in the northeast to Shizuoka in central Japan, including Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as well as Tokyo, Chiba, Ibaraki, Nagano and others.
With a stricter government-set ceiling for permissible levels of cesium in milk and other foods to take effect in April, an association official said that based on the findings from raw milk inspections so far, he believes results from the envisioned checks will also meet the new standards.
Another industry federation comprised mostly of small to midsize dairy firms is also planning to conduct similar tests this month.
The moves came after the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in December urged the association and two other dairy industry groups to check milk and disclose the findings.