Japanese Imports Banned Due to Radiation Concerns – But What About Internet Sales?

by Nindo Mom on March 23, 2011

Since Japan’s recent tsunami disaster caused dangerous levels of damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plants, bans on Japanese foods and consumables have been spreading due to concerns about radiation contamination.

Hong Kong has banned imports of Japanese meat, dairy, and fish unless Japan tests the items for radiation. And in Tokyo, parents have been strongly cautioned to NOT allow their children drink tap water due to dangerous levels of radiation.  India is requiring that food made in Japan after March 11–the day of the earthquake–be tested for radiation before being allowed into their country. And bans on Japanese foods have already spread to Australia and the United States, as well.

Japanese Food Bans in the United States

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has banned imports of 11 types of produce and dairy products produced in regions near the Fukushima plants. Officials say that only about 4 percent of U.S. food comes from Japan, so there’s not much opportunity for us to come into contact with contaminated food, anyway. However, any risk can be reason for concern, considering the repercussions. As a mom who enjoys cooking and eating international foods, I must admit I’m going to be particularly vigilant in the months ahead, and paying close attention to where the food I buy is coming from.

What about Internet Food Sales to Individuals?

This is my big question. With all the international Internet food shops making sales to individuals, there seems to be a big potential for risk, here.  When people order food Japanese food items from shops on the Internet, they may not know exactly where the items are shipping from. Nor do they know where the food components came from that went into making those food items.

And although the U.S. has banned food from containing milk, fresh vegetables and fruit from one of four prefectures closest to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, these items may not always be accurately labeled when sold online to individuals, in small quantities. Will officials be opening up all packages from Japan to make sure they don’t contain undeclared food items? I doubt we have the manpower to do that.

Personally, I have to believe that the Japanese government will take precautions to keep food products contaminated with radiation from spreading to all parts of their country–otherwise, they’ll have more problems than just a loss in foreign food sales. But the question is, with their country reeling from the tsunami disaster, how long will it take the Japanese government to put these precautions in place? And will more of their food and water supplies already be contaminated by then?

I haven’t seen any official information on safety steps being taken with regards to Internet sales, either–or of any officially released warnings.  And we must remember that the Japanese government is overwhelmed with the enormity of what it’s dealing with in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami disaster–so we may not have all the answers for a good while.

Precautions to Take

If you live in the United States, you must decide whether you feel comfortable with the steps the FDA has already taken to avoid contaminated food from coming into the country. For myself, I trust that the FDA’s ban on imports is sufficient precaution for food shipped in for sale at major grocery outlets. But I suspect that, for anyone who may be ordering food items online directly from a company located in Japan, the risk may be greater.

Interestingly, Amazon.com actually does have a household radiation detector for sale on its website: with one of its stated uses being “evaluation of radiation contamination of farm products .” It’s not cheap, and a person would have to educate themselves on how to use it–but it is an option, if someone wanted to try testing their food items themselves. This kind of item would be particularly valuable to families living in Japan right now, I would think, since residents don’t yet know how far the radiation will spread through the food supply.

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UPDATE: MARCH 24

Due to high readings for radioactivity, Russia has now banned Japanese food imports from 6 Japanese prefectures, including Chiba, Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Nagano and Tochigi.

Canada has also banned imports of Japanese foods.

Singapore has also jumped on the bandwagon, after detecting low levels of radiation in Parsley, rapeseed, mustard and perilla originating from Japan.

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