Nations react to radioactivity fears


Steven Hedlund

Published on
April 5, 2011

Food-safety officials and politicians from India to Russia to the United States are reacting swiftly to fears surrounding harmful levels of radioactive iodine turning up in Japanese-caught fish.

Japan has set a legal limit for radioactive iodine levels in seafood of 2,000 becquerels per kilogram, the same limit adopted for vegetables, after a batch of sand lance caught off the coast of Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture tested positive for radioactive iodine.

On Tuesday, India became the first country to impose an import ban on all food imported from Japan. The ban is set at three months. “After detailed discussions, it was concluded that since the radiation is expanding horizontally … it may result in further radioactive contamination in … food exports from Japan,” said India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Russian, meanwhile, is reportedly looking at prohibiting seafood harvested from the area around the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Other nations — including the United States, Canada, France, Australia and Singapore — have ramped up inspections of food imported from Japan or have imposed a partial ban on food from the Japanese prefectures affected by last month’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Saturday reassured the public that “based on current information, there is no risk to the U.S. food supply.” The agency said it is closely monitoring the situation in Japan and is working with the Japanese government and other U.S. agencies to ensure that imported food remains safe.

As for seafood, the FDA is diverting fish harvested from the four Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma for testing before product can enter the U.S. food supply. However, “little to no” product from the prefectures is currently being imported due to the devastation there, noted the agency.

On Tuesday, Scottish MEP Ian Hudghton expressed concern regarding Japanese-caught fish, especially the potential of radioactivity spreading throughout the Pacific.

“The [European] Commission’s increased monitoring regime set up in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster is reassuring. Nevertheless, the wider impact of the accident is truly frightening,” said Hudghton. “The commission has often tried to justify the existence of the Common Fisheries Policy using the line that ‘fish know no borders.’ Radioactivity, too, knows no borders, and there is a serious possibility that the Fukushima leaks will have serious effects across the Pacific.”

Click here to read Jason Holland’s commentary “Japanese seafood unhinged by contamination fears.”

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