EU urges radiation tests for Japanese food imports     Print

March 17, 2011

The European commission has asked member states to begin testing imported Japanese food for increased radiation levels, although officials believe that health risks for consumers are low.

That assessment is based on the fact that Japanese agricultural exports to the European Union are limited to begin with – particularly from the affected regions. Moreover, the disruption and devastation from the earthquake and tsunami are likely to reduce those exports even further.

Nonetheless, the commission, the EU’s executive arm, said it would remain “vigilant” about possible risks as it requested the tests for all plant or animal products imported from Japan since March 15.

“It’s a precautionary measure,” said Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for John Dalli, the health and consumer affairs commissioner.

The EU imported 64.8m euros in Japanese agricultural products in 2010, according to the commission, with Germany, the Netherlands and the UK topping the list.

Under existing trade agreements, Japan is only allowed to export four types of animal products to the EU: fish, bivalve molluscs, casings and pet food. No establishments in the Fukushima prefecture – the centre of the nuclear disaster – are authorised for EU export. In the neighbouring Miyagi prefecture, a pet-food and fisheries plant are authorised, as well as 27 vessels that catch and freeze fish.

As for fruit and vegetables, Japan’s exports to the EU were 9,000 tonnes last year. Most of the fruit and vegetables produced in Fukushima are consumed locally. The vast majority of exports go to markets in east Asia, according to the commission.


Joshua Chaffin, Financial Times Brussels Blog