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Radiation checks on Japanese goods increased

Aug 22,2019
The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety will double safety checks on 17 agricultural products imported from Japan, starting Friday.

The list includes 10 food products like tea and chocolate, three agricultural produce including blueberries and coffee, two food additives and two health supplements. The 17 categories were set based on past radioactivity inspections.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster broke out in 2011, the ministry halted imports of all seafood from eight prefectures and 27 agricultural products from 14 prefectures. Japanese food imports not included in that list, regardless of region, were also subject to radioactivity tests every time they passed customs.

If the tests detect radioactive substances, even a very small amount as low as one becquerel per kilo, the importer was requested to submit 17 different test papers to prove its safety. Until now, every food product that failed to pass the initial stage of testing was returned to Japan - nobody has ever attempted to submit the 17 test papers.

While these specific products were never sold in Korea, the failed inspections didn’t affect other products in the same category.

The ministry’s Wednesday announcement, however, raises the bar on 17 categories of specific products that have been returned to Japan due to radioactivity in the past five years. For Japanese food imports in these 17 categories, the Food and Drug Ministry will double the amount of products tested and the number of tests conducted.

Before, one kilogram of each product was tested for radioactivity for each batch of product manufactured on the same day. Starting Friday, two kilograms will undergo two rounds of radioactive tests per kilogram.

According to Japanese news outlets, the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee raised concerns on Fukushima-made food ingredients to the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games during a Tuesday meeting. The committee responded that the food used would undergo strict safety tests.

The Food and Drug Ministry’s new bar for Japanese food imports follows the announcement by the Ministry of Environment last Friday that it is raising the levels of radiation and heavy metal pollution that it inspects imported recyclable trash for.

The Korean government increasing radiation inspections on imported Japanese goods is seen as a response to recent Japanese government trade retaliations including removing Korea from its “white list” of countries that receive preferential export treatment.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]