Taiwan keeps ban on food from Japanese radiation zones
Public concern prompts government to rethink opening of market
Taiwan has put on hold plans to reopen its market to food from Japanese areas exposed to radiation amid public concern over food safety on the island, according to media reports.
The changed plan, announced on Friday, sees Taiwan join regions, including mainland China and South Korea, which have kept bans on the import of food produced in Japanese provinces affected by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was damaged in a 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Beijing banned imports of food from 10 prefectures in Japan after the crisis, leading to a sharp drop in the sale and use of Japanese food products at mainland department stores, restaurants and supermarkets.
Hong Kong followed the mainland’s lead and banned vegetables, fruit, milk and dairy products from five radiation-affected prefectures. The Centre for Food Safety has monitored food samples for radiation since March 12, 2011, a day after the quake.
Muji, a Japanese lifestyle store, removed two types of ready meals produced in Tochigi this week after the recall order, Taiwan’s China Times reported, and Muji Hong Kong also said on Thursday it was recalling the two products after reports from Taiwan.
Hsu Kuo-yung, spokesman for Taiwan’s Executive Yuan, said the import ban would remain in place and no timeline had been set to lift it.
He said the government “has to first ensure a sound inspection and management mechanism” before considering any opening to food products from the affected regions in Japan, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported.
During a cross-agency meeting on Thursday, Taiwanese Premier Lin Chuan said “there can be no question of such an opening” without “a sound inspection and management mechanism”, according to Hsu.
Taiwan banned food imports from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba in northern Japan after a magnitude 9.1 earthquake triggered a tsunami that led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011.
Concerns over safety of food products imported from the radiation-affected regions have been in the media spotlight since customers reported soy sauce produced from Ibaraki prefecture was served in a Japanese fast-food restaurant chain last week.
In response, food safety regulators on the island ordered a recall of two varieties of soy sauce imported from Japan in all restaurants and supermarkets in Taiwan from Monday, Central News Agency reported.
Although food products from Fukushima and the surrounding prefectures were banned, composite packaging foods, such as condiments and sauce sachets in instant noodle packs were not subject to scrutiny, and Hsu was quoted by CNA as saying the government would “review the issue and plug the loopholes”.