The Group of Seven (G7) has urged recent restrictions imposed on Japanese food products from around Fukushima to be removed.
Trade ministers made the comments at a meeting in Sakai, in Osaka Prefecture, with Japan holding the presidency of the G7 in 2023. The G7 includes Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Canada, and the United States.
Japan has started releasing treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station into the sea. The accident at the site occurred in 2011. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the discharges would have a “negligible” radiological impact on people and the environment.
Australian officials previously said they had confidence in the process that led to the decision to release treated water, and the U.S. and UK also supported the move.
G7 trade ministers emphasized the need for rules-based, open, fair, predictable, transparent, and non-discriminatory international trade in food and agricultural products.
“We reiterate and affirm the importance of import restrictions on science-based food products and only apply following World Trade Organization (WTO) and other international rules. In this context, the G7 members strongly call for the immediate repeal of measures that unnecessarily restrict trade, including the newly introduced import restrictions on Japanese food products,” they said.
Reasons for trade bans
In August, China informed the WTO that it would suspend imports of all aquatic products from Japan. Reasons given for this move were to “fully guard against the risk of radioactive contamination of food safety caused by the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima in Japan, to protect the health of Chinese consumers and ensure the food safety of imported food.”
Chinese officials said releasing contaminated water into the sea would pose “uncontrollable risks to food safety and public health.” Hong Kong and Macao adopted similar measures in September.
As of the end of October, authorities in Hong Kong had tested almost 11,300 samples of food imported from Japan for radiation levels, and all have been satisfactory.
Hong Kong banned the import of aquatic products from 10 parts of Japan. The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has revealed several breaches of import restrictions, but these mainly relate to processing in Japanese prefectures after the rules came into force and products not being accompanied by radiation or exporter certificate issued by Japanese authorities showing radiation levels do not exceed the guidelines.
In October, Russia introduced a temporary restriction on imports of all aquatic products originating in Japan to protect against risks of introducing radioactively contaminated food due to the discharge of contaminated water from Fukushima.
IAEA monitoring situation
Stored water has been treated through an Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) to remove radioactivity, aside from tritium. Before discharging, Japan will dilute the water to bring the tritium to below regulatory standards.
This past week, IAEA said the discharge of treated water from the nuclear power station was progressing “as planned and without any technical concerns” two months after it began.
Marine samples near the site have been taken and will be compared against the ones taken last year to see if there are any changes in the levels of radionuclides. Fish from markets in Fukushima were also tested.
Earlier this year, the European Commission lifted import restrictions for food from Japan following the accident at the nuclear plant. Import controls were removed in England, Scotland, and Wales in 2022 following an assessment by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS).
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