• Kyodo News

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Other parts of Asia have stepped up their screening of Japanese food imports for radioactive contamination after radioactive substances were detected on vegetables and raw milk produced near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power complex.

In China, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine ordered authorities Monday to inspect Japanese food imports for radiation, the Xinhua news agency said.

China imported $593 million worth of agricultural products from Japan last year.

Public concern in China about radioactive contamination of Japanese food is expected to depress imports this year.

In South Korea, the Food and Drug Administration said Monday it will step up screening for radioactive contamination on both farm products produced in Japan and foreign farm products shipped through Japan.

Philippine authorities started testing food imports from Japan for radiation beginning Monday.

The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute said it started scanning container cargoes from Japan for possible radiation.

The institute said it has placed radiation portal monitors in major ports.

Separately, a World Health Organization spokesman said the WHO is conducting its own study on the health effects of food products exposed to radiation leaked into the atmosphere from the damaged nuclear complex.

“We are working on it,” Peter Cordingley, spokesman for the WHO’s Western Pacific Region, said.

Cordingley said WHO experts in Geneva are looking at the data collected by the Manila-based WHO Western Pacific regional office and are trying to “get an understanding of every situation.”

The Japanese government said radioactive substances above legal limits have been detected in spinach and raw milk produced in areas close to the tsunami-crippled Fukushima facility, but the level of contamination is not harmful to human health.

The central government has nevertheless ordered prefectural governments to ensure that spinach and milk produced in the contaminated areas are not shipped to the market.

“We don’t know the health effects of consuming this milk and spinach that’s been tested,” Cordingley said, while noting that one-time consumption “won’t make any difference at all.”

“It just depends on how long this goes on and how much is consumed,” he said.

The Fukushima complex, damaged by the tsunami that struck after the massive March 11 earthquake, has sent radioactive substances over extensive areas of eastern Japan.

The government has evacuated residents within a 20-km zone of the power station and told residents living in areas within 20 to 30 km to avoid going outdoors.

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