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Fukuda Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.18 (February 14, 2008) ============================================================

"A visit to the site of food inspection. This is Yasuo Fukuda."
-- Message from the Prime Minister
(Provisional Translation)

Prime Minister Yasuo FukudaProfile Japanese

A visit to the site of food inspection. This is Yasuo Fukuda.

The Diet is currently deliberating the budget for the coming fiscal year, but at the same time, the Diet members are deeply concerned about the recent string of incidents in which toxic substances were found to be mixed in with frozen dumplings made in China. There have been many questions in the Diet on this issue.

In response to the e-mail magazine of last week, some readers commented that an improved system for inspecting imported food needs to be put in place. To that end, I visited a site where imported foods are inspected, in order to see for myself how the inspections are actually carried out.

First, I visited one of the many warehouses in the Port of Yokohama, where I watched a food sanitation inspector from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare collect test samples from sacks of adzuki beans imported from China. There were sacks of foodstuffs piled right up to the ceiling, and apart from adzuki beans, there were items such as soybeans and cowpeas from China, and coffee beans from Brazil. Indeed, all manner of foodstuffs are imported into our country.

The samples collected at the warehouse are sent to a testing center at nearby Yokohama Quarantine Station so that checks can be carried out to make sure that they contain no agrochemicals or toxic substances. One by one, the samples are ground up in a grinder and all the components extracted. These are then analyzed by a team of approximately 40 inspectors using the very latest equipment.

Every day, between 100 and 200 samples of imported foods are sent to this center from ports around the country. I was informed that the equipment was kept running more or less at full capacity in order for inspection results to be made available as quickly as possible.

With the quantity of food imported into Japan increasing every year, there is some question over whether the current efforts will prove equal to the task of even more thorough testing of processed foods.

Meanwhile, in response to last week's e-mail magazine, some readers were of the opinion that rather than relying on importing food, Japan should increase its level of self-sufficiency.

As a matter of fact, however, Japan relies on imports for more than 60 percent of its food: an urgent task for the Government is to improve the system of inspection of imported food so as to ensure the safety and security of foods on the plates of the people. Given the recent incidents, I will give thought once again to the sort of inspection system that we should have in this country.

There is a constant need to review the modality of administration. Unnecessary systems and organizations should be abolished without hesitation, while those areas of the administration that are necessary for the people must be made more robust.

This week, I convened the first meeting of the Council for Promoting Consumer Policy. There was lively discussion by the Council members, who each brought their own insights to the table. I hope that the Council will be able to release its conclusion around springtime, so that we will be able to realize, as soon as possible, a powerful organization for consumer protection.

Last Sunday, an incident occurred in Okinawa in which a U.S. Marine assaulted a girl. This is absolutely unacceptable. I will work together with the relevant officials to take vigorous measures to ensure that there is no recurrence of such incidents.

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General Editor: Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda
Chief Editor: Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Matushige Oono
Publication: Cabinet Public Relations Office
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8968, Japan

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