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More time needed for confidence to return on Fukushima produce: Lam

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam
 
Oct. 22, 2018
HONG KONG – More time is needed for Hong Kong to lift its ban on food imports from Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture imposed in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster there as public confidence remains low, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said.
In an interview with Japanese media ahead of her first official working trip to Tokyo since taking office as chief executive in 2017, Lam said that while food safety remains a priority, consumer sentiment is another deciding factor for when the ban should be lifted.
“We will have to continue to monitor the situation and to see when is the right time, especially (for) public acceptance,” Lam said.
She said there’s no point in the government relaxing the ban if the public end up not supporting the move. “They will still not buy the food, so we have to find the right situation with the needed assurance before we change the import restrictions,” she added.
Hong Kong in July lifted the ban on imports of foods including vegetables, fruits, milk, milk beverages and milk formula from the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma nearby Fukushima.
But the ban on food imports from Fukushima, which hosts the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, remains in place.
Lam said that since the lifting of the food ban from the four prefectures, individual cases of food imports lacking needed certificates have led to law enforcement activities, which in turn impacted public confidence.
China, which restricted the import of foods and feedstuff produced in 10 of Japan’s 47 prefectures over radiation worries, has informed Japan of its intention to relax the ban through diplomatic channels, it was reported, according to the sources.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to reach a deal when he meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Oct 26.
Defending Hong Kong’s recent moves to outlaw an independence-seeking political party and expel a foreign journalist who hosted a talk by the party’s leader, Lam insisted that the people’s rights and freedoms remain intact.
“I am not suggesting that I should, or the government should put a limit on freedom of speech or freedom of reporting in Hong Kong. I am saying, internationally, there is no absolute freedom per se. If anybody is aggrieved by the executive…they can take us to court,” she said.
Lam said judges from foreign common law jurisdictions, including Britain, Australia and Canada, sitting on the territory’s top court to adjudicate cases is proof that Hong Kong courts are not interfered with or influenced by the Chinese government.
The chief executive will embark on the five-day visit to Japan from Oct 29, a first for a Hong Kong leader since 2010. She is slated to meet with Japanese officials over issues covering government business, trade and investment, education, technology science, tourism and women’s affairs.
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October 27, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong partially lifts food safety restrictions imposed after nuclear disaster

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Food  from Japan to Hong Kong is now being imported under eased and  newly effective food safety protocols.

According to the Hong Kong Center for Food Safety (CFS), the 7-year-old order in response to the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster was recently amended. The CFS is a unit of Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

The Fukushima disaster, a 2011 nuclear power plant failure stemming from a massive earthquake and tidal wave, caused Hong Kong to restrict food imports from that area and four other Japanese prefectures: Chiba, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi.

Hong Kong recently completed a review of these risk management restrictions based on recent surveillance results and expert opinion from international organizations.

Based on that work, the new arrangement for import control on Japanese food went into effect on July 24.

In summary, import restrictions on food from Fukushima remain unchanged. Vegetables, fruits, milk, milk beverages, and dried milk from the other four prefectures are allowed to be imported with the condition that they are accompanied by both a radiation certificate and an exporter certificate issued by the Japanese authority.

The radiation certificate shows which of the four prefectures each consignment of products come from and attests that the radiation levels do not exceed standards set by the Codex Alimentarius.

Codex is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to foods, food production, and food safety

According to the Codex, food is considered safe for human consumption if the radiation levels do not exceed those levels.

The exporter also must hold and produce exporter certificate which certifies the foods exported to Hong Kong by the exporter involved are fit for human consumption as far as radiological protection is concerned and are readily available for sale in Japan implying that the radiation levels do not exceed the Japanese standards which are more stringent than Codex levels.

Two levels of food safety clearance 

Two levels of gatekeeping are involved in the current arrangement. At the export level, the Japanese authority that issues the radiation certificates and exporter certificates must ensure that each consignment of those products do not come from Fukushima and attest that the radiation levels of the food products do not exceed the Codex levels as well as the more stringent Japanese levels.

At the import level, the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) will continue to conduct radiation tests on every consignment of food products imported from Japan. Food products can only enter the local market after radiation testing has been performed. The CFS will strengthen inspection and testing on vegetables, fruits, and milk products from the four prefectures. The radiation test results will continue to be updated on the CFS’s website every working day for public access.

Updates by the Center for Food Safety on its radiation testing of food imported have been available since March 16, 2011.

https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2018/08/hong-kong-partially-lifts-food-safety-restrictions-imposed-after-nuclear-disaster/

August 22, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong should ease post-Fukushima ban on some Japanese food imports, government says

05 June, 2018
Centre for Food Safety plans to resume imports of fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy from four prefectures neighbouring stricken area, as long as they pass radiation tests
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Hong Kong should relax a ban on food imported from Japan which has been in place since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the government proposed on Tuesday, saying it considered the health risk low.
The suggestion of relaxing the seven-year-old ban was based on a scientific assessment of food safety, said a government source, who said trade was not the main concern.
In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Hong Kong banned the import of fresh produce and milk from the prefecture and four nearby prefectures – Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma – while also testing fresh produce from the rest of the country for radiation. Hong Kong has been the top market for Japanese food for more than a decade, taking 26 per cent of the country’s food exports in 2016, according to Japan’s agriculture ministry.
But the government plans to resume imports of fruit, vegetables, milk and dairy from the four neighbouring prefectures, as long as they pass radiation tests. The ban on produce from Fukushima should stay in place “with a view to addressing the concerns of the public”, said the proposal submitted to the Legislative Council on Tuesday by the Centre for Food Safety, under the Food and Health Bureau.
“The proposed amendment is made based on the scientific data on food safety,” a government source said. “Trade consideration with Japan is not a concern that should came before food safety.”
But he added that Hong Kong should also consider measures taken elsewhere when issuing an import ban, as the city is a member of the World Trade Organisation. Many countries which had similar bans – including Canada, Australia, the United States and Singapore – had lifted them totally or partially in recent years, the report said.
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The proposal will be discussed by a Legco panel on June 12, and can be gazetted and implement once it gets lawmakers’ approval.
But legislator Helena Wong Pik-wan disagreed that the ban should be relaxed at all.
“There is no food shortage in Hong Kong and there is no urgency to relax the ban,” she said. “The government should have public health as the foremost consideration, instead of putting it at unnecessary risk.”
She expressed worries that contamination in Japan is not over, as it can take up to 30 years for radiation to wear off. She pointed out that mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea had maintained their bans.
Since the ban came in, the centre has tested 490,000 food samples from Japan and found low radiation levels in 46. The most recent tainted sample was found in September 2016.
Japanese health officials said more than 2 million food samples had been collected in the country for radiation testing by early March, and most of the 1,200 found with unacceptable radiation levels were taken before March 2013, nearly 60 per cent of them from Fukushima.
Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said on Tuesday that local authorities would implement two levels of gatekeeping to ensure the safety of food from the radiation-affected prefectures once imports resume.
Food products from the four prefectures would have to meet Japanese requirements to get export certificates, which Hong Kong officials would check. The centre would then scan all Japanese food products, not just those from the affected prefectures, for radiation.
In March, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor met Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono to discuss the removal of restrictions, which Lam rejected, citing safety concerns. But last month Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Lam had promised she was exploring measures to scrap the restrictions.

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong to reach decision by November on lifting Japanese food import ban over Fukushima disaster

News comes after city’s leader in March declined request to remove restrictions, citing public safety
Hong Kong is considering lifting a ban on Japanese food imports after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a decision to be reached by November when the city’s top official visits the country, the Post has learned.
In March, Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono met Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Hong Kong to request the removal of restrictions on food imports imposed after the 2011 accident. But Lam expressed reservations at the time, citing public safety.
The ban covers fresh produce and milk from Fukushima and four neighbouring prefectures, while fresh produce from the rest of the country is subjected to radiation tests by Hong Kong authorities.
An earthquake seven years ago led to a tsunami damaging nuclear reactors at a plant in Fukushima, sparking fears of radiation leaks.
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On Saturday, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Lam told visiting members of the Japan-Hong Kong Parliamentarian League earlier this month she was exploring measures to scrap food import restrictions.
It also stated that Lam hoped to make the decision by November 1, when she is expected to head to Tokyo for a Hong Kong-related forum and meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A local government source confirmed to the Post that it was looking into the possibilities of lifting the ban, but he added these might not cover Fukushima imports.
He also said Lam’s meeting with Abe was not finalised.
The Kyodo report said Lam had explained to visiting league members the difficulties in lifting the ban on Fukushima’s food products, saying the public might not understand the decision because the prefecture was “too well known”.
The report also quoted a Japanese government source as saying: “We are negotiating with Hong Kong and trying our best to get the ban lifted.”
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau said on Saturday the authority had tested more than 490,000 samples of food imported from Japan since the restrictions were in place and none of the samples had radiation levels exceeding recommended limits.
He said the government had been maintaining communication with Japanese authorities and reviewing control measures on food imported from the country in light of current conditions.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima export ban maintained by Hong Kong

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April 10, 2018
Seven years after a tsunami wiped out the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, causing widespread radiation contamination in a largely agricultural region, the Fukushima prefecture continues to struggle in getting crucial overseas markets to accept its produce.
This is despite a charm offensive that saw japanese foreign minister Taro Kono visiting Hong-Kong last weekend for the first time in 21 years to lobby chief executive Carrie Lam to lift a ban on imports from Fukushima and its surrounding region.
Hong-Kong which accounts for a quarter of Japan’s food export trade, is among the 55 countries that have blocked shipments from Fukushima since the 2011 disaster.
Facing resistance
The trip did not go the way Tokyo planned, with Lam expressing her reluctance to reopen trade.
“She emphasized that it is incumbent upon the government to safeguard public health and hence effective measures must be in place to ensure food safety and to maintain public confidence,” a statement issued by Lam’s office read.
The visit came shortly after South Korea announced it would maintain a blanket ban on imports from north-eastern Japan, even though the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled this as “arbitrary and unjustifiable” discriminatory measures.
Korea’s trade ministry stated in March that it would appeal the WTO decision, which is equivalent to a court ruling.
“Despite this ruling, the current import ban will remain in force, and the government will make its utmost efforts to ensure radiation-contaminated food does not reach the dinner table,” it said in a strongly-worded statement, ahead of a likely appeal.
Radiation safe?
Meanwhile a Fukushima flatfish festival in Bangkok was forced to cancel amid pressure from consumer goods watchdogs over radioactive contamination.
According to japanese officials, food from the affected area is safe, with no radiation having been detected in rice since 2015. In January, a safety panel announced that contamination inspections would be phased out in favor of random spot checks, to bring rice in line with the current procedure for fruits and vegetables.
This position is backed up by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, whose director-general publicly ate sweets made from pears and apples grown in Fukushima at an event in Tokyo last May to publicize the safety of produce in the affected area.
“We don’t see any reason to raise concern about the safety of food,” Jose Graziano Da Silva said at the time.
Just a year after the nuclear incident japanese authorities began adopting the strictest radiation standards of any country in the world by lowering the accepted level of contamination by half.
But persuading prime export markets that Fukushima food is safe is proving to be tremendously difficult.

April 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Food Products Imported from Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Zone Recalled in Taiwan and Hong-Kong

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Muji ready meals, natto food products imported from Fukushima nuclear disaster zone recalled in Taiwan

TAIPEI – Two types of Muji ready meals were removed from shelves in Taiwan after they were found to have come from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The Japanese lifestyle store removed 638 packets of the products from Tochigi prefecture voluntarily, Taiwan’s China Times reported on Wednesday (Dec 14).

The two products are the conger eel rice kit and the crab rice kit, said Ms Qiu Xiu-yi, northern district head of the Food and Drug Adminstration of Taiwan.

Muji Hong Kong said on Thursday that it was recalling the two products, following the reports in Taiwan. 

“In consideration of customers’ concern, Muji Hong Kong has removed the related products from sales floor immediately and is recalling the related products,” it said on its website. “Customers can bring their purchased products to Muji stores in Hong Kong for refund.”

In Taiwan, natto or fermented soybean products imported by Yu Mao Trading were also found to have come from Chiba prefecture, another affected zone.

Five natto products, or 1,465 items in total, were recalled.

Companies which do not report the origin of food imports accurately can be fined NT$30,000 to NT$3 million (S$1,350 to S$135,0000), the Taiwanese report said.

http://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/muji-ready-meals-natto-food-products-imported-from-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-zone

December 16, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese dried mushroom sample detected with trace level of radioactivity

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said today (September 8) that a loose-packed dried mushroom sample, imported from Japan, was detected with a low level of radioactivity. Follow-up is in progress.

Japanese dried mushroom sample detected with trace level of radioactivity

Hong Kong (HKSAR) –      The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said today (September 8) that a loose-packed dried mushroom sample, imported from Japan, was detected with a low level of radioactivity. Follow-up is in progress.

“The CFS collected the dried mushroom sample from a retail outlet in Sheung Wan for radiation testing under its routine Food Surveillance Programme. According to the information provided by the retail outlet, the product concerned was imported from Japan. The test result showed that the sample was detected with Caesium-137 at a level of 24 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg).

The standard laid down by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in the guideline levels for radionuclides in foods contaminated following a nuclear or radiological emergency is 1 000 Bq/kg for Caesium-137. The radiation level detected does not exceed the Codex guideline level,” a spokesman for the CFS said.

The CFS has informed the vendor concerned of the test result. The vendor has voluntarily stopped sale and removed from shelves the affected product.

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident, the CFS has enhanced radiation testing on food imported from Japan at import, wholesale and retail levels since March 12, 2011.

The CFS updates the results and figures of food surveillance on imported Japanese food on its website every working day (including those cases detected with low levels of radioactivity).

The CFS will continue to closely monitor information from Japan as well as the radiation test results of Japanese food products in Hong Kong and elsewhere. It will review and adjust, if necessary, the surveillance strategy on food products imported from Japan in a timely manner, making reference to the recommendations of international authorities, to safeguard food safety.

Please refer to the CFS website for results of the food surveillance on Japanese food: http://www.cfs.gov.hk/english/programme/programme_rafs/programme_rafs_fc_01_30_Nuclear_Event_and_Food_Safety.html” target=”_blank”>www.cfs.gov.hk/english/programme/programme_rafs/programme_rafs_fc_01_30_Nuclear_Event_and_Food_Safety.html.

http://7thspace.com/headlines/530211/japanese_dried_mushroom_sample_detected_with_trace_level_of_radioactivity.html

September 9, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong still testing food imports for Fukushima’s radiation

More than five years ago on Friday, March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 set off a large tsunami sending a 50-foot wall of water over  three Fukushima Daiichi reactors. Three of the nuclear cores melted down in the next three days.

About 1,600 miles away on the next day, Saturday, March 12, 2011, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) in Hong Kong began stepped up surveillance of fresh foods including milk, vegetables and fruits, imported from Japan for radiation testing.

Eleven days later, on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, CFS discovered three samples imported from Japan with radioactivity levels exceeding those considered to be safe by international Codex Alimentarius Commission.

CFS is a unit of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department of Hong Kong’s City government, which is part of China. The CFS continues to test those Japanese imports but hasn’t found any additional shipments with unsafe radiation levels.

And its not for lack of looking. Since one week before CFS found those hot white radishes, turnips and spinach samples, Hong Kong has tested 344,881 samples.

It breaks down this way: 19,420 vegetable samples; 19,338 fruit samples; 2,189 milk and milk beverage samples; 900 milk powder samples; 594 frozen confection samples; 54,468 aquatic product samples; 9,487 meat product smples; 31,744 drink samples, and 206,741 other samples including cereals and snacks.

The totals are through Aug. 22. CFS continues to test samples from Japanese imports, conducting testing around the clock five days a week.

Hong Kong’s continued surveillance for radioactivity is just one sign of how cautious Asia remains about the Fukushima meltdown. Japan has excluded people and crop production in a 310-square-mile zone around the nuclear plants. No deaths or cases of radiation sickness are attributed to the nuclear accident. And, perhaps due to the large exclusion zone, future cancers and deaths from potential exposures are projected to be low.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration treats Fukushima with a periodically updated Import Alert that permits certain Japanese food imports to be detained without inspection.

Districts may detain, without physical examination, the specified products from firms in the Fukushima, Aomori, Chiba, Gumna, Ibaraki, Iwate, Miyagi, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama Shizuoka, Tochigig, Yamagata and Yamanashi prefectures,” the July 18 Import Alert from FDA says.

Japanese imports from those areas that can still be detained at the U.S. border include:

  • Rice, Cultivated, Whole Grain;
  • Milk/Butter/Dried Milk Products;
  • Filled Milk/Imitation Milk Products;
  • Fish, N.E.C.;
  • Venus Clams;
  • Sea Urchin/Uni;
  • Certain Meat, Meat Products and Poultry, specifically(beef, boar, bear, deer, duck, hare and pheasant products;
  • Yuzu Fruit;
  • Kiwi Fruit;
  • Vegetables/Vegetable Products;
  •  Baby Formula Products; and
  • Milk based formulas.

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/08/hong-kong-still-testing-food-imports-for-fukushimas-radiation/

August 24, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment