The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is proposing recommending a removal of import checks on products from Fukushima and nearby areas.

The FSA is reviewing the controls on imports of food from Japan, that have been in place since a nuclear accident in March 2011, to provide food safety and public health advice to ministers, so a decision can be made on whether they are still needed. Northern Ireland will still follow EU rules and the final decision will be made by ministers in each country of England, Wales and Scotland.

A risk assessment estimated that removing the 100 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/Kg) maximum level of radiocaesium (radioactive forms of caesium) for food imported from Japan to the UK would result in a negligible increase in risk to consumers.

Most foods from Japan can already be imported without restrictions or checks on levels of radioactivity. However, controls remain for some products from certain regions such as a number of fish species, wild mushrooms and foraged vegetables.

Consultation open
A public comment period is giving people the chance to have a say on the next steps including keeping the current controls, removing them, or applying checks to fewer products. It is open until Feb. 11, 2022.

Since 2014, laboratory analysis has been done on a random basis of no more than 5 percent of consignments. In the 10 years that controls have been in place, there have been no instances where checks have found levels above 100 Bq/kg on products imported into the UK.

The potential for harm from radioactivity is measured in millisieverts (mSv). The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends people should receive no more than the lower end of 1 to 20 mSv per year. The FSA’s risk assessment estimates the dose to UK consumers would be no more than 0.016 mSv per year as a result of eating food imported from Japan.

Some foods imported from Japan would still require declarations and undergo official controls for other food safety reasons when they are classed as high-risk foods.

EU and United States action
Earlier this year, the United States and European Union changed the rules around the import of food from areas near Fukushima. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed an import alert, the EU Commission only amended regulations to modify checks on food imports.

Rebecca Sudworth, director of policy at the FSA, said food safety is a priority in the process.

“Products from this area are only imported into the UK in small quantities, primarily catering for people with a Japanese diet and restaurants specializing in Japanese food,” she said.

“These regulations have since been reviewed on a regular basis by the European Commission. This responsibility has now passed to the FSA, along with Food Standards Scotland, and we have completed a UK import risk assessment and economic impact assessment. We welcome all views on possible changes to the controls, before we advise ministers on next steps.”

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