Two years on from the Fukushima crisis, 44 economies are still banning or restricting imports of Japanese foods due to concerns over residual radiation, according to government officials.
The government fears these economies could continue to impose the measures, damaging domestic food export businesses, the officials said.
According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, 10 countries including Canada and Mexico have lifted restrictions on foods shipments from Japan, but major importers such as China and South Korea have kept strict measures in place.
China stopped importing all food products from 10 prefectures after the triple meltdowns disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in March 2011. South Korea, meanwhile, has suspended imports of many food items from Japan, such as fish and spinach, according to the officials.
“We have been closely watching the position of the Japanese government and its measures” to ensure safety, a spokesman for the Korea Food & Drug Administration said in Seoul.
But an official of the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore suggested the city-state has no intention of lifting the restrictions in the near term.
Hironobu Naka, head of the farm ministry’s External Trade Policy Office, said that “the safety of food produce is ensured” because Japan only exports products that are also distributed domestically, and must therefore meet government-set standards.
“All we can do is to disclose more data to other economies and ask them to deal with the matter based on scientific grounds,” Naka said.
Kids’ thyroids OK: survey
An Environment Ministry survey has found that the thyroid glands of children and youths in Fukushima are virtually in the same state of health as their peers in three other prefectures, a preliminary report indicated.
The data released Friday covered a total of 4,365 residents in Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki prefectures between the ages of 3 and 18, who underwent the same ultrasonography scans as those performed on children and teens in Fukushima Prefecture.
The survey, conducted from last November, found that 2,469, or 56.6 percent, of those tested in the three prefectures had growths measuring 5 mm or less, or cysts of 20 mm or smaller, in their thyroid glands — a medical status known as A2. Forty-four of them, or 1.0 percent, were classed as status B, with larger growths or cysts that require further examinations, the ministry said. The thyroids of the remaining 1,852 children and youths had no abnormalities.
The Fukushima Prefectural Government has also been conducting ultrasonography exams for all residents who were aged up to 18 at the time of the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. As of January, 41.2 percent of the 130,000 children and teens tested were judged to be in A2 status and 0.6 percent in status B.
The ministry believes the figures were lower in Fukushima because the data included infants up to 2 years old.
The three core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant released a massive amount of contamination into the environment, including radioactive iodine, which tends to accumulate in the thyroid gland. The risk of thyroid cancer from radioactive iodine among children is believed to be more than three times that for adults.