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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.

japan_406x250About 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.

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