National

Japan to tighten checks on South Korean fishery products in apparent Fukushima ban tit-for-tat

JIJI

The health ministry said Thursday that it will strengthen inspections on flatfish and some other fishery products from South Korea starting Saturday.

The ministry characterized the measure as an effort to safeguard the health of Japanese people ahead of summer, when food poisoning cases tend to increase.

But the tighter inspections are likely a de facto countermeasure against South Korea, which has banned imports of fishery products from Fukushima and seven other prefectures since the March 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant, analysts say.

According to the ministry, the tighter inspections will also cover refrigerated shucked arch shells, fan mussels, cockles and sea urchins.

For some of the items, imports from countries other than South Korea will also be subject to the stricter checks.

The ministry will raise the annual number of South Korean flatfish covered by inspections for parasites that may cause diarrhea and other problems to 600 from the current 300.

The number of patients who suffered food poisoning in Japan due to parasites in South Korean flatfish stood at 62 in 2015, 113 in 2016, 47 in 2017 and 82 in 2018.

The ministry will also double the number of inspections on other fishery products, such as arch shells, for pathogenic microorganisms. It is considering a further increase in the number of checks depending on the results.

In April, the Appellate Body of the World Trade Organization overturned a lower body’s ruling that South Korea’s import ban on Japanese fishery products from the eight prefectures amounted to unfair discrimination.