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Food, water in Japan 'within safety limits'

Publication Date : 17-01-2014


Food and drinking water in Japan are within international safety limits, said the country's minister in charge of science and technology policy Ichita Yamamoto.

The assurance came amid lingering concerns about contamination following a nuclear plant incident in Fukushima prefecture nearly three years ago.

Yamamoto, in Singapore on an official visit, told The Straits Times in an interview Thursday that constant safety checks and government data showed that the possibility of contamination in Japanese food products is "way below" international safety thresholds. "There is no worry at all," he said.

Speaking earlier at a public lecture organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, he said the Japanese government was also focused on dealing with the threat of contaminated water from the Fukushima No.1 plant.

"The levels of radioactivity outside the port of the nuclear plant and in the open sea remain well below the limit of the World Health Organisation's guideline for drinking water quality," said Yamamoto, whose other Cabinet portfolios include ocean policy and territorial issues, space policy, and affairs concerning Okinawa and the Northern Territories.

Concerns about food safety were sparked in March 2011 after a tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake struck the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The catastrophic failure at the plant and subsequent leak of radioactive material set off a global food scare, with many countries banning food imports from areas near the plant. Some of the import curbs have since been eased, though others remain in place due to persistent media reports about fresh radioactive leaks.

Singapore, for instance, still bans food imports from Fukushima prefecture. But in April last year, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore lifted a suspension of food imports from seven prefectures near Fukushima following a review.

Food imports from these seven prefectures still have to meet certain requirements, such as a laboratory report certifying they have been tested and found to be free of radioactive contaminants.

The meltdown at the Fukushima plant has also sparked an anti-nuclear movement and raised pointed questions about the energy future of Japan, the earliest Asian nation to adopt atomic energy on a large scale.

The movement has since lost momentum, though two former premiers - Morihiro Hosokawa and Junichiro Koizumi - have come out to publicly challenge Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's pro-nuclear policy.

Asked if he foresaw a scenario where Japan gave up nuclear energy for good, Yamamoto said the Abe administration is trying to reduce the country's dependency on atomic energy.

But he added: "The Abe government does not have a position of giving up nuclear power plants altogether at the moment."


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