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    The Japanese people have been dealt a cruel gastronomical blow. For centuries, fish has been?

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    The Japanese people have been dealt a cruel gastronomical blow. For centuries, fish has been the nation's staple diet. Now, in an effort to case the threat of mass-poisoning, the Government has been forced to advise the Japanese people to cut fish consumption drastically. The safety level was revealed on Tuesday (26 June). As well, nine coastal and inland sea areas have been restricted -- an admission that some of the country's richest fishing grounds are unsafe, because of industrial pollution.

    The main threat is from mercury waste and a petrochemical by-product (polychlorinated biphney PCB). Mercury contamination causes "Minamata disease" (named after the city where it was first uncovered). To date, almost 400 people have fallen victim to the disease. Sixty-eight of them have died. PCB poisoning can cause blindness.

    Despite its humanitarian designs, the Government announcement of "safe limits" has had its critics. Fishermen have rallied by the thousands to demand a Government review of the measures. The fishermen have been hit hard by the scare -- in a gesture of hopelessness, fishermen in one region gave away their day's catch.

    Fishmongers, too, have added their voices to the campaign. They claim their businesses will be ruined if the scare is permitted to run unchecked. The combined effort has met with some success. Two days after the initial announcement, the Government declared the situation was not as serious as it was first thought.

    Almost all edible varieties of fish are now under scrutiny in a series of long and complicated tests to determine just how serious the situation is.

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    Reuters - Including Visnews
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