Japan nuclear mishap: Just three labs accredited to test Japan food radiation in India
Syed Akbar Hyderabad: India has just three accredited laboratories to test radiation levelsin food items and one of them is owned by the Central government. These centres are located in Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi and this makes it difficultfor them to take up radiation tests in case of any untoward incident. There was only onesuch centre prior to the nuclear mishap in Japan on March 11. A week after the radiationleak, accreditation was given to two more laboratories taking the total number to three. The infrastructure available in the country is hardly sufficient to deal with Japan-typemishaps. Since India is primarily an agriculture country, there's a need for regulartests for radiation levels. Any radiation leak will first impact the food crops. "Unfortunately we do not have a transparent system in the country as far as nuclearenergy is concerned. We do not know what quantity of food from Japan is being tested atthese laboratories. We also do not know the outcome of such tests. The government has notcome out with data on imported food stuff tested at these laboratories," said seniorscientist K Babu Rao. India imports processed seafood from Japan, besides pearls. Rice, however, is notimported as Indians do not like the Japanese variety, which is sticky. The need for morelaboratories is felt after the three-month ban on imports from Japan was lifted a dayafter it was imposed. However, the food from Japan is to tested for radiationcontamination before it is released into the market for public consumption. Concerns for radiation contamination have grown after nuclear leakage into the sea. TheNuclear Power Corporation of India in its latest update on radiation contamination inJapan on Friday evening said radioactive iodine was detected in quantities 1.40 lakhtimes higher than the prescribed safety limit. "Even the Food Safety Standards Authority of India, which is overseeing the safety offoods imported from Japan, in its advisory expressed concern that the lab testingstandards in the country are not of adequate level. If such is the ground situation inthe country, one can imagine the standards being followed in our laboratories. Radiationcontaminated food will trigger mutations in the body. The presence of radio nuclei ismore dangerous than the radiation itself," observed senior geneticist Dr MN Khaja.