Anxiety and Refusing Food: Consumers' Attitudes and Understanding of Radioactivity

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Midori AOYAGI , Social and Environmental Systems Center, National Inst Environmental Studies, Tsukuba, Japan
After the accidents of Fukushima, large area in the east part of Japan were exposed by radioactivity. As a result, foods from those regions were contaminated by radiation, but producers have made great effort to produce less contaminated foods at their land. Gradually they began to sell them at the markets. But prices are still far lower than before the accidents.

We investigate consumers in the metropolitan area about consumption of those foods, especially about images of radioactivity, understandings, degree of anxiety, and information seeking behaviors for those foods by focus group interviews.

Our results are as follows.

1)     Participants have ambiguous but significant degree of “fear” for the health effects by the radioactivity. Their images of radioactivity are not based on scientific evidence, but images from TV documentary programs, movies and other images on mass media: a cracked flat glass, skin disease, airborne dirt.  Participants expressed “invisible”, “bad for our health”, “no chance of recovery once contaminated”.

2)     Participants seldom “measured” actual level of radioactivity at their home. They have almost no attention to the level of radioactivity of foods, although local governments or local NGOs offered those measurement services. It seems that participants refuse “right” information. They just seek information that tells them worse or worst cases, from friends or families.

3)     Although there were some participants who are more knowledgeable, and have deeper understandings, they told us, “knowledge and emotion is different, though we understand those foods are safe enough, my feeling cannot admit to eat them.”

4)     We have one group of people from Tohoku region, they told us “people in Tokyo did not recognize that their excessive response to radioactive contamination of foods suffers us. They ignore our efforts and also sufferings.”

Those “divided” consumer-producer relationship makes people face economic difficulties in many aspects.