Support Marketplace

Japanese food brands could be harmed by radiation fears

Two woman look at packets of meat in Ichinoseki, Japan.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The U.S. State Department said it's offering its staff in Japan Potassium Iodide pills out of what it says is abundance of caution. That comes after workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant fled again from smoke at the tsunami damaged plant. The World Health Organization today also said there's a serious risk of food radiation in Japan.

As we continue to cover the human and economic tragedy in Japan, Marketplace's Rob Schmitz is with us from Tokyo. Hey Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ: Hey Steve.

CHIOTAKIS: How are the Japanese dealing with the possibility of this contamination?

SCHMITZ: Ever since Saturday, when we learned that spinach and cow's milk from the region surrounding the power plant were contaminated, I think people here have operated under the assumption that radiation has already hit other parts of the food chain. It's important to note that the levels of radiation found in these food samples weren't dangerously high, but that wasn't reassuring to some shoppers I interviewed this weekend in Tokyo. Shigeyo Kimura was one of them. She thought that fish could be contaminated, too.

So, here she's saying that she's threw with eating fish, and when she shopped for vegetables, she says that she's been checking to see which region they come from to make sure they're not being grown anywhere near the Fukishima plant.

CHIOTAKIS: What about globally, Rob? Will shoppers in, I don't know -- Arizona or Alabama feel any of this at the supermarket?

SCHMITZ: I think that's up to individual shoppers. Japan has ordered producers in prefectures near the nuclear plant not to ship any of their food, but that's probably not going to make people feel any safer toward Japanese products. I spoke with a branding consultant in Tokyo today, and he told me the Japanese brand -- whether it's Kobe beef or sushi -- will most likely be tarnished for some time over this disaster.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace's Rob Schmitz, our Asia Bureau Chief of Marketplace, joining us from Tokyo. Thanks, Rob.

SCHMITZ: Thanks Steve.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...