ROME--Food produced in Fukushima Prefecture is safe, but continued monitoring will be needed to ensure that remains the case, according to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s top official.

“We’ve been following this issue very closely,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva in a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, referring to the safety of agricultural products and other food items grown and manufactured in the prefecture.

“We are also periodically testing samples to certify that the food presents no danger to human beings. For the moment we are convinced that there is no immediate problem with the food coming from that area.”

He added that maintaining control over the situation is crucial.

The Rome-based FAO began conducting checks on food products from Fukushima in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Da Silva said he is happy with measures that the Japanese government has implemented as precautions for consumers and assistance to local farmers as they comply with international regulations.

His comments came ahead of his first visit to Japan in four years, scheduled from May 9.

In addition to meetings with Japanese government officials, Da Silva is expected to participate in an event organized by the Japanese Foreign Ministry in which attendees will sample desserts made with fruits grown in the prefecture.

Da Silva also said he expects to learn more about the Japanese diet to address the global issue of obesity, which he described as the “most important problem” in advanced countries.

“Japan is our best example,” he said of the nation’s lowest obesity rate among the developed world. “We want to learn more about what the Japanese do to avoid obesity. This is part of the culture; your traditional diet is even recognized by UNESCO as a healthy diet.”

Japan’s contribution to the FAO is the second largest after the United States, and its funds have been used to install an irrigation system in Afghanistan.

The FAO, working with Tokyo, is set to increase its number of Japanese staff over a five-year program as the country is under-represented at the organization.