TAIPEI – Taiwan is planning to phase out restrictions imposed on food imports from five Japanese prefectures in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, health authorities have said.
Health and Welfare Minister Chen Shih-chung told a Chinese year-end news conference on Monday that while the Taiwan government will never allow the import of Japanese food products contaminated with radioactive material, it will “make appropriate adjustments” concerning those that are not contaminated according to the regulations of international trade.
Chen, however, emphasized that there is no timetable for easing the ban.
Chen pointed out that the European Union has decided to lift restrictions it imposed on imports of certain Japanese food products after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and that China has also proposed to Japan setting up a working group to discuss the issue.
“Taiwan cannot detach itself from the issue,” Chen said. “It is not right that Taiwan hasn’t adjusted the policy for all these years.”
Chen said the import ban was imposed on five Japanese prefectures because the government at that time did not know what kinds of food products were safe.
“It is time to re-examine the policy,” he said.
Chen suggested that Taiwan is likely to allow the import of food products with low safety risks because some food products from the five prefectures are safe to consume.
A government official who is involved in policy planning said the government is indeed looking to ease the ban in two stages, but that the decision must be approved by “higher-ups” before the ministry finalizes details and makes an official announcement.
In November 2016, the Taiwan government was considering easing the ban on such food imports in two stages.
In the first stage, while the ban on imports of all food products from Fukushima Prefecture would remain in place, the ban on certain food imports such as those with “low safety risks” from nearby Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures would be lifted.
In the second stage, to be implemented possibly six months later, restrictions would be further relaxed.
But that plan faced strong opposition from the opposition Nationalist Party (KMT), which questioned the government’s ability to ensure the safety of the imported products. The government backed away from the plan following revelations that banned food products had slipped into the country and been sold.