Industrial Food Pollution: A New Perspective on Food Safety Risks Beyond the Current Legal Definition

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:15 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Kazuko UDA , Senshu university, Yokohama, Japan
This study proposes a new perspective on food safety risks, with reference to the 1968 Kanemi rice bran oil poisoning in Japan. This poisoning was brought on by Polychlorinated Biphenyls and dioxins, which are hormone-disrupting chemicals. As a result, the victims had chronic illnesses and passed on the poisoning to their children. Despite the victims' ongoing need for compensation and relief, no adequate policies as yet exist.

Similar to the Kanemi case, East Asian society has experienced many other food contamination, e.g. the 1955 Morinaga arsenic milk poisoning in Japan, the 1979 Taiwan rice bran oil disease, and the contamination of food with melamine in China and Korea in the 2000s. These cases show that salient issues regarding food in East Asia have changed from security to safety. Furthermore, they indicate that this study can be applied to other contamination cases.

In contrast to neglected those cases, environmental pollution incidents such as Minamata disease - caused by the methylmercury contamination of Minamata Bay in the 1950s - were officially recognized as 'public nuisance'. The victims of them therefore received public compensation in accordance with the law. However, the government denies that serious food poisonings are 'public nuisance', leaving victims without compensation.

From the sociological perspective, the social damage structure of the Kanemi was not similar to typical cases of food poisoning. Rather, with regard to the victims' possibility of recovery, the negative effects on daily life and community, and the cause of the contamination, it was similar to 'public nuisance’.

In conclusion, I propose a new perspective of ‘Industrial Food Pollution’, beyond the Japanese legal definition of ‘Food poisoning’ and ‘Environmental pollution as public nuisance’. Based on this perspective, I recommend the establishment of ‘Relief Fund for Industrial Food Pollution’, which institutionalize compensation systems for victims.