Last milk batch from affected prefecture arriving in 3 days

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 March, 2011, 12:00am

The last batch of a popular brand of Japanese milk formula produced in a quake-affected prefecture arrives in Hong Kong in three days.

Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety yesterday started to impose a ban on Japanese food - including milk, vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry and other products produced on or after March 11 - from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures. This came after three food samples were found exceeding radiation limits on Wednesday.

Professor Gabriel Leung, undersecretary for food and health, announced that no more contaminated food was found yesterday.

The final shipment of 15,000 cans of Japanese milk formula Snow Brand will arrive on Monday.

The city's most popular Japanese milk formula manufacturer, using raw milk from Hokkaido processed in Gunma, said it regretted Hong Kong's decision to ban its products. 'Our factory has tested radiation levels [and] no problem has been found so far,' said Virginia Mo, assistant director of Snow Brand Hong Kong. But the company said that it would work with the government and respect the ban.

Mo expected that the 15,000 cans - about half for babies less than nine months old and the other half for infants under three years - would be sold within two weeks.

In Hong Kong, 35 per cent of the Snow Brand formula is produced in Japan, the rest in Australia.

'There was in fact not much difference between them, and we urge parents to switch to our Australian produce,' Mo said.

Leung said some radioactive substances decayed more quickly than others. He said Iodine-131, detected in three batches of food in Hong Kong on Wednesday, had a half-life of about eight days, but Caesium-137 had a half-life of 30 years. A half-life is the time taken for the radioactivity to fall to half its original value. Caesium-137 is the principal source of radiation in the isolation zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world's worst nuclear disaster.

'We have to look carefully at the influence of radiation on food, water and land before deciding when the ban can be lifted,' Leung said.

Leung said that besides vegetables, fruit and water, other food products such as beef and seafood might also be contaminated if they came from an animal that consumed exposed grass, sea algae or water. 'So we are staying vigilant and we will not rule out the possibility that food from other areas of Japan may also be contaminated by radiation.'

Early this week, Hong Kong government officials met representatives of 19 importers and retailers of Japanese food. The representatives said they would speed up restocking and step up planning to make sure there were no shortages.

How you can give

Habitat for Humanity

HSBC: 502-476591-002 (for HK$)

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Please send bank-in slip with contact information.

Make crossed cheques payable to 'Habitat for Humanity China Limited'. Mark 'For Japan Post-Disaster Response' on the back and send with contact information to 17th floor, Sun House, 181 Des Voeux Road, Central, Sheung Wan.

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Red Cross

Make crossed cheques payable to 'Hong Kong Red Cross' and send to Hong Kong Red Cross, 33 Harcourt Road. Write 'Japan Earthquake 2011' on the back.

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Make cheques payable to 'Hong Kong Committee for Unicef'.

Send cheques, with personal details and 'Japan' written on the back, to Hong Kong Committee for Unicef, 3/F, 60 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley

PPS: Use your contact number as bill number. Enter Unicef merchant code: 6012, then select bill type 3 'emergency'.

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