The European Commission is to lift import restrictions for food from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station in 2011.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU Commission, said the European Union had agreed to remove the remaining restrictive import measures linked to the incident. 

“We have taken this decision based on science, based on evidence and based on the assessment of the International Atomic Energy Agency,” she said.

The Government of Japan welcomed the announcement, adding it had requested the EU and its member states to lift the measures on several occasions.

EU removes restrictions
After the accident, the EU imposed pre-export testing of food products for radioactivity. Since restrictions were adopted in 2011, they have been reviewed by the EU Commission every second year and have been eased as risks declined. The last review, in September 2021, limited pre-export testing restrictions to wild mushrooms, some fish species and wild edible plants.

No non-compliances with maximum radionuclide levels set in regulation have been observed at import in the EU since June 2011, showing the control system and checks performed by Japanese authorities are effective, said the EU Commission. Levels of radionuclides in food and feed from Japan will continue to be followed-up to ensure consumer safety.

Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said following the work of Japanese authorities and collaboration with EU experts, restrictions can be relaxed.

“The favorable control results of the recent years demonstrate the strong commitment and cooperation of our Japanese partners, and I am very grateful to everyone who has made this possible,” she said.

Import restrictions were removed in England, Scotland, and Wales in June 2022 following an assessment by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

Concerns over release of treated water
The EU Commission said it was important that Japan continues to monitor domestic production for radioactivity. This includes fish, fishery products and seaweed close to the release site of the treated water. They should be checked for the presence of radionuclides, including tritium.

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review found that Japan’s plans to release treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station into the sea are “consistent” with its safety standards.

IAEA said the discharges of treated water would have a “negligible” radiological impact to people and the environment.

Stored water has been treated through an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) to remove almost all radioactivity, aside from tritium. Before discharging, Japan will dilute the water to bring the tritium to below regulatory standards.

However, Hong Kong said it plans to ban the import of aquatic products from 10 parts of Japan once the country starts discharging wastewater from Fukushima, to ensure food safety and public health.

Products include all live, frozen, chilled, dried, or otherwise preserved aquatic products, sea salt and unprocessed or processed seaweed.

Officials said there is no guarantee that the purification system can operate continuously and effectively in the long term after commencement of the discharge plan, and that the move would not pose potential risks to food safety. China has taken similar action, according to media reports.

In a communication in June, to the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, Japan called on a dozen countries and regions that still had import measures in place to remove them and provided an update on the water discharge situation.

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