Tuesday, October 23, 2012

EU set to relax regulations on food imports from Japan starting Nov. 1

From Japan Times, citing Jiji Tsushin News (10/24/2012):

BRUSSELS — The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said it will relax regulations on imports of Japanese food starting Nov. 1.

The regulations were introduced in the wake of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

During an interview in July, Maria Damanaki, EU commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, expressed the commission's willingness to loosen the restrictions, saying the danger of Japanese seafood "is around zero."

The commission plans to reduce the frequency of sampling tests of Japanese food to 5 percent of import volume for all items from at least 5 to 10 percent.

The EU has required Tokyo and 11 other prefectures across the nation to conduct tests on food before exports are shipped. It plans to limit the regulation to certain items about which safety concerns remain, including tea leaves and some kinds of mushrooms, for the 12 prefectures with the exception of Fukushima.

Yomiuri Shinbun (10/22/2012) has a bit more details as to what food items and which prefectures:

  • Agricultural products imported to the EU from Japan which no longer require certificates: all food items and animal feeds except for 8 items including tea leaves and mushrooms

  • Prefectures to which the EU's new rule applies: Tokyo, Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Iwate, Miyagi, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa

I guess the EU does not know or chooses not to know that vegetables, meat, fish produced or caught in locations in Iwate, Miyagi, Gunma, Ibaraki, Chiba are being found with radioactive cesium exceeding the 100 Bq/kg safety limit of Japan or very close to it, and it is not last year but this year. However, since the EU import so little food supply from Japan anyway (9,000 tonnes from all Japan in 2010, says the EU), I suppose it is acceptable to the technocrats at the EU.

So, what are the 8 food items that the EU still requires the certificates? Let's check the Delegation of the European Union to Japan site. It has this news, dated October 22, 2012:

Food safety: Commission reviews measures on imports from Japan

EU News 501/2012

22 October 2012

Experts meeting in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) endorsed a Commission proposal to revise rules on import conditions of food and feed originating from Japan following the Fukushima nuclear accident. Existing restrictions for food and feed imports coming from the prefecture Fukushima are maintained whereas control measures have been eased for several other prefectures. For the prefecture Fukushima, the existing measures applying to all food and feed, with the exception of alcoholic beverages, are maintained until 31 March 2014. Based on over 40,000 samples of products harvested in the second growing season after the nuclear accident, the restrictive measures in place have been eased for 11 prefectures (Yamanashi, Shizuoka, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Saitama, Tokyo, Iwate, Chiba and Kanagawa). An interim review is foreseen before 31 March 2013 for crops where samples of products for the second growing season (March-November) were not available in time for this review. For the control at import, a reduction of the frequency of controls to 5% will apply. Based on the monitoring results from the 2013 growing season, it is foreseen to undertake a review of these measures shortly before 31 March 2014. The measures will be published at the end of this month following the adoption of the proposal by the Commission and are foreseen to enter into force on 1 November 2012.

Well, we're no wiser. There is no mention of 8 food items, and I have little enthusiasm in delving into the EU press releases from last year. Maybe that's the wishful thinking of Yomiuri.

I did check the EU's statement from March 24, 2011, and I had to laugh at this passage near the end of the statement:

According to the latest information, the Japanese authorities have taken the necessary measures to ensure that food (and drinking water) testing above their established acceptable levels of radio-activity is neither sold to the Japanese public nor exported.

Well it was sold to the Japanese public. Yokohama City was busy last year feeding school children with radioactive beef because the business-minded mayor of Yokohama couldn't pass up a bargain of buying premier domestic beef at a discount. As for exports, the French authorities caught green tea from Shizuoka that had over 1,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. This year, green tea from Tochigi was found with 24 becquerels/kg of cesium, AFTER it was brewed, indicating the dried tea may have had 100 times that.

Trivial details, for the political class.


Atomfritz said...

Even the nuke-critic German Spiegel magazine doesn't report about this.
This is probably another typical European Commission decision, done in the secret and untold to the European masses.

Thank you for finding and spreading this news!

Anonymous said...

The EU limit for Cesium is 600 Bq/Kg, so maybe Japan can export part of the banned products there.

Anonymous said...

"The European Union has authorized radioactive load in foods in Japan has increased substantially. Until now, a maximum of 600 becquerels of radioactivity (cesium 134 and cesium 137) per kilogram allowed, but since last weekend for example oil or herbal suddenly 12,500 becquerels per kilogram, more than 20 times as high. The increase was recorded in Emergency Ordinance 297/2011 on March 27 and was in force."


Japan’s New Limits For Radiation in Food: 20 Times Stricter Than American and EU Standards


Radionuclide contamination of foods: FAO recommended limits


"According to PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the new standards would drastically raise the levels of radiation allowed in food, water, air, and the general environment. PEER, a national organization of local, state, and federal employees who had access to internal EPA emails, claims that the new standards will result in a “nearly 1000-fold increase for exposure to strontium-90, a 3000 to 100,000-fold hike for exposure to iodine-131; and an almost 25,000 rise for exposure to radioactive nickel-63? in drinking water. This information, as well as the emails themselves were published by Collapsenet on March 24."


Fukushima beef being shipped to US restaurants


NYultrabuddha said...

Hi. My husband is traveling to the Osaka area this week. He is bringing his own food supply. I am wondering about whether or not the tap water there is safe to drink. Has anyone seen any reports about contamination in the water supply in Kansai? Also, have they started burning disaster debris in that area yet?

Anonymous said...


Just want to point out something in your post that could lead to confusion. You wrote, "radiation levels were above 3 microsieverts (mSv) per hour. Japan's recommended radiation limit is 0.23mSv per hour."

Can you correct this? Note: microsievert is abbreviated not as 'mSv',
but as 'µSv'. mSv is milliesievert, 1000 times larger than microsievert.

On a Mac: µ is made by holding down the 'option' key and typing 'm'. (It makes the Greek mu). On a PC in word: insert, insert symbol.

Thank you for the great service you provide!

To help make sense of radiation units, I made this page awhile back, perhaps also helpful to some of your readers: http://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/radioactivity/radiation_units/


Michaël VB

Anonymous said...

Not sure how that happened. Comment belongs tp next post, where I now also left this comment. Apologies. - M

Anonymous said...

NYultrabuddha -

I would not hesitate to drink the Osaka water at this time. No need to bring it himself. If he wants to be extra careful, he can easily buy crystal geyser (California), evian (France) or volvic (France) in almost any convenience store.

Be careful, however, of American brands in the local Japan stores. Kellogs, Nabisco, etc products are also produced in Japan, using local ingredients. Don't let the company name fool him into thinking it's made outside of Japan.

He can also find lots of foreign food in nearby Kobe at the Foreign Buyers Club. They have a shop in Kobe he can visit, even if he is not a member. If he's staying longer, there are also Costco supermarkets here. He would need a membership for that (I believe US membership would work here too), but there is plenty of foreign food at very reasonable prices at Costco.

Anonymous said...

With regard to 5:27 -- the upside of increased food contamination limits in the EU is reduced liabilities for the nuclear industry, possibly including lower insurance costs, and less headaches for growers operating in contaminated areas.
We did not think EU unelected bureaucrats would put citizens health first, did we?

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