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EU to ease Japan food import rules
Publication Date : 21-10-2012
The European Union (EU) has decided to substantially ease import restrictions on food products and animal feed from Tokyo and 10 prefectures that were imposed due to the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant last year, it has been learned.
The 27-nation EU on Friday approved a draft revision to the import rules, which the European Commission is expected to finalise at its ministerial meeting by the end of this month and implement from November 1.
The EU began restricting Japanese food imports in late March last year after the start of the nuclear crisis triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Under the current rules, the EU requires food and animal feed from Tokyo and 11 prefectures--Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Miyagi, Yamanashi, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Shizuoka and Iwate--to be inspected for radiation prior to being exported to EU countries.
An analysis report must also be attached to prove the products' radioactive iodine and cesium levels do not exceed EU standards.
The EU further requires items from 35 other prefectures to be shipped along with a certificate of origin to verify where the products were produced.
According to the draft revision and other materials obtained by The Yomiuri Shimbun, the EU reviewed results of more than 40,000 sample surveys. It will narrow down its list of products from Tokyo and 10 prefectures--excluding Fukushima--subject to pre-export inspections to a maximum of eight items, effective November 1.
Tea leaves and mushrooms will remain on the list because the surveys show these products tend to have radiation levels exceeding EU standards.
For instance, under the eased rules, all food products from Yamanashi Prefecture, excluding mushrooms, can be exported to EU nations without radiation inspection certificates.
With the eased restrictions, it is expected that inspection costs shouldered by exporters will be largely reduced.
The EU also decided to lower the extraction rate for sample inspections covering all food items in Japan to 5 per cent from the current rate of between 10 per cent and 20 per cent.
Current EU restrictions will continue to apply to all products from Fukushima Prefecture with the exception of alcohol, such as sake, until the end of March 2014 when the revised rules expire.
The EU will evaluate the revised rules in March 2013.
After New Zealand lifted all import restrictions on Japanese foodstuffs in July, there have been moves to review the safety of Japanese products.
However, some countries, including the United States and South Korea, continue to bar imports on some food items from Fukushima Prefecture and other areas.
The EU's decision to ease the restrictions will likely affect the policies of other nations.