Japanese food ban widens

Tokyo, Japan: The number of governments that have banned Japanese food imports due to fears of radiation contamination is growing. Banned items included milk products, fruit, vegetables and seafood.

On Friday, China joined Singapore and the US in halting some imported foods from radiation-affected areas of Japan. Other governments are expected to take similar precautionary measures as Japan struggles to contain the damage from the Fukushima nuclear plant that followed the earthquake and tsunami two weeks ago.

Although the extent of contamination remains unclear, the damage to farms and livelihoods is spreading. Fish supplies from the radiation-contaminated regions have stopped.

Produce markets have also been affected and consumers are avoiding Japanese produce says restaurants and retailers.

Canada, Australia, Russia and UAE have adopted similar bans on Japanese foods. Voice of America reports health and security researcher Bill Durodie who expects more countries are likely to follow. “The reality is the United States made the decision a few days ago and it’s almost inevitable that once a country that size has decided to act in that way, others will follow suit.”

But an expert on the politics of energy said the danger of radiation-contaminated foods is greatly exaggerated. Charles Ebinger at the Brookings Institution told VOA that an average adult would have to drink a quart of contaminated milk each day for one year to receive the same radiation as one CAT scan.

Ebinger said the one certainty is the economic damage to Japan’s northeast. “That particular part of Japan is deeply dependent on agriculture and fish, so I think inside the Japanese economy, we’ll see pockets of areas that have been exposed to contamination, see their economy hurt very much.”

Many European countries have yet to announce bans on Japanese food imports. Germany and France have started screening food samples. They say there will be no restrictions on Japanese food imports, however, until test results are evaluated.

Japan’s fish exports were worth US$1.69b in 2008, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.