Japan’s nuclear crisis has raised fears across the globe that imported food may be contaminated by radiation. Yesterday, the US became the first nation to block the import of produce from Japan’s radiation zone.
The US said on Wednesday that it will halt milk, vegetable and fruit imports from areas near the Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear plant.
Other countries are expected to follow suit.
However Japan has been quick to play down fears that food may be contaminated by nuclear radiation.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: “We’re going to properly inform foreign governments with updated facts to allow them to effectively respond to the risks.”
According to Japan, 11 types of vegetable from the area around Fukushima have tested for above-safety radiation levels. Milk and water have also been contaminated. However, Edano insisted that there is no danger to humans.
Japan has already banned some food shipments from affected areas, and has urged those who live nearby not to eat leafy vegetables grown there.
However, the US may have paved the way for other nations to ban food imports from Japan’s radiation zone.
South Korea said it is considering banning food imports from Fukushima and three nearby prefectures, due to concerns of possible radiation contamination.
France has asked the European Commission to look into monitoring radioactivity in imports from Japan.
Australia will also restrict food imports from areas near Japan’s nuclear power plant, although the government said the risk to consumers was negligible.
Australia’s regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said that it was a “precautionary measure, and consistent with approaches internationally”.
Food makes up 1% of Japanese exports, according to World Bank data.
Efforts to salvage the latest reports from the Fukushima nuclear plant have been hampered once again as workers have been unable to work at one reactor due to high radiation levels.
Plant operator Tepco has successfully restored some power to vital cooling systems over the past two days, however the reactors are not yet stable.
Japan’s Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency said: “Even though the temperature and the pressure are a little higher, that does not necessarily mean that there will be abnormalities in the nuclear plant, there is quite a lot of leeway. There is no need to panic, but if it keeps rising there is a chance that it might reach dangerous levels.”