Low risk in food from radiation-affected areas of Japan: FDA

A farmer carefully plucks vivid yellow yuzu citrus fruit from a tree in Yamatsuri Town, Fukushima Prefecture on November 13, 2018. The yuzu on his 2,000-square-meter farm has ripened about 10 days earlier than usual this year. Harvest season for the local specialty lasts through mid-December, with the fruit sold in the town or processed into sherbet and other products. ( The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images )

TAIPEI (CNA) — A total of 300 food items from areas of Japan affected by the nuclear meltdown in 2011 have been tested by the Taiwanese authorities and pose a low health risk, according to a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study released Thursday.

The study, which was based on data from 2018, inspected a series of food items, including dried mushrooms, sardines, dried fruit, rice, milk, flour, tea leaves, shellfish, vegetables and ice cream from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures, all areas affected by the Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011,

Also on Thursday, the FDA released a food security assessment report on all food items from Japan, based on food inspection results from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and Taiwan’s food consumption database.

The report estimates that while the total worldwide average dose from natural radiation is approximately 2.4 mSv a year, the radiation exposure for 97.5 percent of Taiwanese or more would be far less than 1 mSv if all restrictions on imports of Japanese food were removed.

Radiation dosages are measured in sieverts, which quantifies the amount of radiation absorbed by human tissue. One sievert is 1,000 millisieverts (mSv).

The report concluded that due to nuclear decay — the natural process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy — the health risks associated with radiation exposure of food imported from Japan are much lower than they were in 2015, four years after the FDA imposed a ban on food products from the five affected prefectures in Japan.

Wei Jen-ting (魏任廷), an official with the FDA’s Food Safety Division, told CNA Saturday that the agency did not publish the research, which was conducted in 2017, until now because it was sent to the Risk Assessment Council and related agencies for a more vigorous examination.

By the time FDA was ready to release the report, a referendum on whether to retain the ban on food imports from the five Japanese prefectures was about to be held, he said.

The FDA decided to release the report on Thursday, along with the inspection report on food from radiation-affected areas of Japan.

Taiwanese citizens voted in favor of maintaining the seven-year-old ban, by a margin of 78 percent to 22 percent in a referendum on Nov. 24, 2018.

In 2015, Taiwan required that imported food from Japan be labeled with its place of origin and provide proof of being radiation free after the authorities found food imports from radiation-affected areas made their way into the country with its packaging showing a different place of origin.

By Chang Ming-hsuan and Chung Yu-chen