Damages could have been prevented -- Akahata column 'Current,' July 24

At long last, the Food Sanitation Law will be revised, and foreign frozen vegetables will not be allowed into Japan if the residue of agricultural chemicals in frozen vegetables such as spinach exceeds the legal limits.

If the National Federation of Farmers Movement (Nomin-ren) hadn't exposed the dangers, nothing would have changed. In December 2000, Nomin-ren's Food Research Laboratory announced that pesticides exceeding the limits were detected in imported frozen vegetables sold at supermarkets.

All such vegetables were imported from China by Japanese food makers and supermarkets. In February and March this year, Nomin-ren again examined the amount of residual chemicals in imported vegetables. After this inspection, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries began inspection of imported frozen vegetables.

Nomin-ren again in April detected a large amount of agricultural chemicals in foreign frozen spinach that was used for restaurant dishes and cooked foods sold at convenience stores. This made the revision of the law inevitable. The government depends on "responsibility" of product buyers. But for consumers, it is difficult to discover polluted products at the store.

Consumers can only avoid buying imported vegetables in the shop. But once they are cooked, it is hard to sort out which are imported and which are not. Most of frozen vegetables are for school lunches, boxed meals, restaurants, and fast food restaurants.

Concerning the Chinese diet pill now in question, unfortunately, the emergence of victimization developed into accusations. Because many of these controversial pills are imported by individuals, store inspections are not effective. For the last two years, however, consumers' health injury reports have been sent to the government. If the government had stopped short of insisting on consumer "responsibility" and began investigation without delay, damages could have been prevented. (end)