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Regain public trust by sharing safety information on Toyosu market site

The Yomiuri ShimbunSafety-related information should be proactively disclosed. This approach is essential for gaining the trust of consumers.

Regarding the relocation issue of Tokyo’s main wholesale food market, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike has declared that the Toyosu market is safe to use. The market is expected to open in October, about two years later than initially scheduled.

“The conditions that will allow all the people involved in the market with peace of mind have been put in place,” Koike emphasized at a meeting at the Tokyo metropolitan government building. The basis for this “safety declaration” must be carefully explained to those involved in the market and consumers.

Koike decided to postpone the relocation from the Tsukiji market because of concerns over soil contamination and other issues at the Toyosu site. After this postponement was announced, it was discovered that an additional layer of soil, which was supposed to have been laid under the market buildings, had not in fact been laid. Levels of toxic substances exceeding environmental standards also were again detected in groundwater at the new site.

In response, further safety measures, which the metropolitan government implemented, were completed in July. As the concentration of toxic substances in the air at the site has dropped to within state guidelines and environmental standards, a metropolitan government expert panel judged the Toyosu site’s safety has been secured for the present and future.

As the conclusion to relocate the market did not change, some operators at the market criticize this process, saying, “We were just jerked around.” There must be some truth in this view, but it is significant that the strengthened measures have eased the anxieties of consumers.

At the same time, it is a fact that concentrations of toxic substances in groundwater at the new site remain at high levels. The expert panel stressed that this would not have any impact on the safety of spaces that come in contact with people and food at the market.

Flesh out Tsukiji plans

The metropolitan government must make absolutely sure that all will be right when it monitors these toxic substances. If anything unusual is found, appropriately dealing with it will be vital. Information also must quickly be made public. Ultimately, that will build trust with consumers.

Last year, Koike announced that she would “protect Tsukiji and make good use of Toyosu.” She presented a plan to turn the current site of the Tsukiji market into a “food theme park.” It cannot be denied that this concept — an attempt to do two things at once — built up the hopes of both relocation advocates and opponents, spurring confusion over the relocation issue.

The Tsukiji site will be used as a parking lot and for other purposes during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to be held in two years. However, what will happen beyond that is unclear. The metropolitan government should materialize the redevelopment plan.

A Tokyo prefectural road linking Olympic venues and the Athletes’ Village also will be built on the Tsukiji site. This road was initially scheduled to have two lanes going each way, but as a repercussion of the delayed relocation, this plan has been changed to a temporary road with one lane each way. For the Games to run smoothly, it will be essential to take measures to minimize the impact of this reduction of lanes.

Two years have passed since Koike became governor. Her political style to advance reforms by giving important positions to experts appointed from outside the Tokyo government was a major factor of confusion. Koike should reflect on this as she goes about running the metropolitan government.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 3, 2018)Speech



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