WTO panel rules on Korea’s ban on Japanese seafood

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September 28th. Banners and calls for government action at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square: “We oppose imports of radioactive, contaminated Japanese seafood.”
 
A dozen civic groups are protesting the lifting of an import ban on Japanese seafood.
“It’s been more than six years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, but radiation-tainted water is still being released into the sea. If the government lifts the restrictions, contaminated Japanese seafood will enter Korea.”
 
Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, the Korean government slapped a temporary import ban on Japanese food. It then extended the ban to all fishery products from eight Japanese prefectures around Fukushima in September 2013, citing safety concerns.
 
In mid-2015, Tokyo lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the restrictions.
After several bilateral meetings, a dispute resolution panel was set up in Feburary 2016, and this weekthe WTO panel sent its first dispute resolution report.
 
“Yes, both Seoul and Tokyo received the panel’s interim decision on Tuesday. For now, we cannot reveal the outcome as the concerning party’s duty. The result will be made public next spring, after it’s translated into three languages. What we can say now is that we will take measures if we think the panel’s ruling poses a risk to public health.”
 
In the complaint, Japan argued the Korean government lacked an explanation and scientific proof to back its restriction measures, adding Seoul had failed respond to Tokyo’s requests to answer its questions.
 
“In 2014 and 2015, Korea dispatched experts to conduct inspections in Fukushima. But, according to what I’ve found through information disclosure requests, under pressure from the Japanese government, the team didn’t conduct inspections in deep water, oceanfloor deposits as originally planned. Such inspections are critical to finding levels of contamination.”
 
The inspection team was disbanded in 2015 without a clear reason, and there was no final report on the inspection.
Experts believe it’s highly likely Korea lost the first panel ruling.
Once the outcome is made public next year, Korea has 60 days to hold discussions with Japan, and 15 months of appeal process, if it decides to do so.
 
“The Korean government needs to see how Japan is controlling its radiation tainted water, and conduct a thorough inspection in Fukushima, including of deep seawater, to show the import ban is fair. Secondly, the Korean government needs to take active measures to release whatever the inspection team found in 2014 and 2015 to restore people’s trust.”
 
Importing food is a matter of a nation’s sovereign rights.
A number of other countries, including China, Russia, Singapore and the U.S. all have some sort of import restriction measures, with China banning imports from ten prefectures in Japan, and Russia banning not just fresh seafood, but processed seafood.
Thus, the WTO ruling could have a broader impact and give Japan the basis to claim that food produced in the Fukushima region is 99 percent safe.
 
“There’s no safety level. Food safety standards differ according to the scientific research methods and the machines you use. No matter how small, radioactive material like Cesium, which stays in a natural state for a long time, accumulates in fish. If consumed by people, there’s a possibility it can cause cancer.”
 
Following the import ban in 2011, Japanese seafood imports to Korea have slumped to less than half the level they were at before the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Many Koreans are worried about the possible resumption of seafood imports from Japan.
 
“Then, people won’t be conscious or cautious of food from Fukushima, and I’m worried my child will eat Japanese seafood. The government should protect the public’s health.”
 
“With concerns about radioactive contamination in seafood imports from Japan, and a lack of transparency from the government, the Korean public is calling on the administration to take the necessary measures that guarantee the safety of the nation’s food supply.
Kim Hyesung, Arirang News. ”
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Japan attempting to force contaminated food products onto the market

A World Trade Organization panel has apparently ruled in Japan’s favor in a dispute over South Korean restrictions on imports of Japanese seafood imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Both sides had been informed of the panel’s decision as of Tuesday. Tokyo declined to reveal the outcome but said it was “consistent with Japan’s position.” A final report is expected to be made public by next spring.
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WTO panel said to back Japan on Fukushima fish ban

Tokyo has called South Korean restrictions on seafood imports unfair
GENEVA/SEOUL — A World Trade Organization panel has apparently ruled in Japan’s favor in a dispute over South Korean restrictions on imports of Japanese seafood imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Both sides had been informed of the panel’s decision as of Tuesday. Tokyo declined to reveal the outcome but said it was “consistent with Japan’s position.” A final report is expected to be made public by next spring.
The WTO dispute settlement process lets parties appeal panel decisions. Ryu Young-jin, South Korea’s minister of food and drug safety, told lawmakers in the National Assembly on Tuesday that the country would appeal any ruling against it by the panel “in the interest of public health.”
For Tokyo, a victory would mark progress on rolling back restrictions on imports of fish and other seafood from waters off eastern Japan. The South Korean ban, which Japan claims is unfair under WTO rules, was imposed in 2013. Japan tried and failed to talk the matter out with South Korea in 2015, prompting Tokyo to request the establishment of the dispute resolution panel.
What happens next remains unclear. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported that the import ban would stay in place until at least 2019.
A number of other countries have imposed similar restrictions on Japanese seafood for fear of radioactive contamination, so the ruling could have a broader impact.

Seoul considers appeal against WTO ruling on Fukushima seafood ban

SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) — South Korea is considering appealing the World Trade Organization (WTO) panel findings that its import restrictions on Japanese seafood after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster were unfair, the country’s trade ministry said Wednesday.
Japan lodged a complaint at the WTO in 2015 to challenge South Korea’s import bans and additional testing requirements on fish caught from eight prefectures near Fukushima since 2013.
On Tuesday, WTO’s dispute settlement panel in Geneva ruled in favor of Japan and notified the two sides of the result.
“We will appeal in accordance with the WTO procedures if (its decision) is considered unfair and affects the government’s ability to safeguard the health of our people,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a release. “Public health concerns are our top priority.”
Under WTO rules, South Korea has 60 days to appeal to an appellate body, which could delay imports of Fukushima-related seafood for another two years during the deliberation period.
Details of the final result will be available to WTO member nations in January and will be open to the public afterwards, the ministry said.

EU parliament opposes bid to reduce testing of Fukushima food imports

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STRASBOURG, FRANCE – The European Parliament on Wednesday warned against easing health controls imposed on food products imported from the Fukushima region in the wake of the nuclear meltdowns of 2011.

The checks were imposed on food from the area around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, which went into meltdown after being hit by massive tsunami, spewing radiation over a wide area in the world’s most serious nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, wants to reduce the list of foods subject to radiation tests before they can be imported into the bloc, which currently includes rice, mushrooms, fish and other seafood.

A resolution passed by a large majority of MEPs called on the commission to withdraw its proposal, saying it was “very difficult to verify whether the measures proposed are sufficient” to protect European consumers and there was reason to think it “could lead to an increase in exposure to radioactive contaminated food.

French Green MEP Michele Rivasi said extra vigilance was needed as the EU negotiates a trade deal with Japan.

MEPs criticized the Commission for not providing them with the data used to decide it was acceptable to relax the restrictions.

The matter will be reviewed in the coming weeks by experts appointed by EU member states, ahead of a vote expected in October, a parliament spokesman told AFP.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/14/national/politics-diplomacy/eu-parliament-opposes-bid-reduce-testing-fukushima-food-imports/#.WbsV7Rdx3rd

 

 

MEPs to raise alarm on Fukushima food imports

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Members of the European Parliament’s food safety committee will vote on a text on Thursday (7 September), raising the alarm over a European Commission proposal to partly relax controls on food imports from Fukushima, Japan, which suffered a nuclear disaster in 2011.

The draft resolution, seen by EUobserver, said “there are sufficient reasons to believe that this proposal could lead to an increase in exposure to radioactive contaminated food with a corresponding impact on human health”.

The MEPs’ text highlighted that, under the commission’s proposal, rice and derived products from the Fukushima prefecture would no longer be subject to emergency inspections. It stressed that one of those products is “rice used in baby food and food for young children”.

The text criticised that the commission’s proposal did not justify why some foodstuffs were taken off the list.

However, the MEPs’ concerns may already be outdated.

Cautious

Danish centre-left MEP Christel Schaldemose, one of the text’s sponsors, spoke to EUobserver on Tuesday over the phone.

“We are completely relying on data from the Japanese side. … We need to be cautious,” she said.

“I wouldn’t say we can’t trust them, but it is worth checking ourselves,” said Schaldemose.

The resolution is an initiative by French Green MEP Michele Rivasi, who has been working on the text since June 2017.

In parallel, Rivasi and two of her Greens colleagues, also asked the commission for an explanation through a written question, on 14 July.

On 22 August, EU commissioner for food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis answered, telling MEPs that the proposed changes are based on publicly available data from the Japanese government.

Andriukaitis included a link to the raw data in a footnote, and said that if MEPs wanted to have a “detailed justification for the proposed changes”, they can get them “by separate mail, upon request”.

According to a commission source, Rivasi will receive this justification after having requested it.

Meanwhile, however, work on the resolution continued, and is now on the agenda for a vote on Thursday.

It received the support from five other MEPs, including two from the two largest political groups in the EU parliament.

Free trade agreement

The parliament’s text, which is non-binding, also mentioned that Japanese exports of rice could increase under the EU-Japan free trade agreement (FTA), which the commission is expected to wrap up this year.

In a briefing which Green MEP Rivasi gave to journalists last July, according to a summary provided by her office, the French politician implied that the proposal on Fukushima was a bargaining chip in the negotiations for the FTA, and called it a “scandal”.

The left-wing Greens are generally critical of FTAs.

Rivasi referred to a remark commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker made following an EU-Japan summit on 6 July.

“I would like to congratulate prime minister Abe on the remarkable progress Japan has made on making products from the Fukushima region safe, following the 2011 accident,” Juncker had said.

“I am confident and I will work into that direction that we will have after the summer break a further lifting of import measures,” he added.

A commission spokeswoman told EUobserver, however, that the proposed changes are based on a thorough analysis.

“The requirement for pre-testing before export is lifted only for food and feed from a prefecture where sufficient data demonstrate that food and feed is compliant in the last growing season with the strict maximum levels applicable in Japan,” she said.

The emergency restrictions were put in place two weeks after the accident happened, and have already been amended five times.

The decision is taken by a so-called implementing act, which only involves the commission and member states, but not the EU parliament.

https://euobserver.com/environment/138902

 

Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council Establishes First Food Testing Lab for Japanese Food Imports

Taiwan communicates on the control of foodstuffs from Japan. I note that these are the same limits, concerning Cesium, in the European Union … (according to the last regulation dated 13/07/2017).
In the EU, it’s been a long time since Iodine 131 is no longer controlled.
The article does not mention “other foodstuffs”, for which the maximum import limit in the EU is 100 Bq / kg.

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AEC lab to test food imports for radiation

The AEC said the new facility can test up to 1,700 samples per month and would run tests on food samples sent by customs offices in northern Taiwan

The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) yesterday announced that it has established the nation’s first food testing laboratory for radioactive contamination in response to calls from civic groups following last year’s public hearings on the issue of Japanese food imports.

The facility is the first of its kind to obtain certification from the Taiwan Accreditation Foundation (TAF), AEC Department of Radiation Protection Director-General Liu Wen-hsi (劉文熙) said.

The council had already been testing food products for radiation, but the new laboratory would be a separate branch entirely dedicated to testing food, Liu said.

Last year, the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s plan to lift a ban on food imports from Japan’s Gunma, Tochigi, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures led to a public outcry, amid fears that food from these areas were affected by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011.

At the public hearings, many experts and civic groups questioned the capability of the nation’s ability to detect radioactive contamination in food products.

The council said it receives about 1,400 food samples from the ministry each month and that the new laboratory would be able test up to 1,700 samples per month.

The council received 2,200 food samples in a single month following the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster, but the monthly average of food samples received for the rest of 2011 was about 1,600, Liu said.

The number of samples sent to the council has not increased significantly over the past few years, the council added.

The new laboratory in Taoyuan’s Longtan District (龍潭) is equipped with five high-purity germanium detectors and employs 12 specialists, increasing resources by one detector and two staff members, Liu said, adding that the laboratory will be testing samples sent by the customs offices in northern Taiwan.

A smaller laboratory run by the council in Kaohsiung tests samples from Taichung and Kaohsiung ports, and is waiting for TAF certification for food testing, he added.

The ministry has determined the maximum allowable level of radioactive residue in foods for three isotopes — iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137 — in the Standards for the Tolerance of Atomic Dust and Radioactivity Contamination in Foods (食品中原子塵或放射能污染容許量標準).

For dairy products and baby foods, the limit is set at 55 becquerels (Bq) of iodine-131, 50Bq of cesium-134 and 50Bq of cesium-137 per kilogram of food, while beverages and bottled water can contain up to 100Bq of iodine-131, 10Bq of cesium-134 or 10Bq of cesium-137 per liter.

As iodine-131 and cesium-134 have shorter half lives, the council is more concerned with cesium-137 contamination in food imported from Japan, Liu said.

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2017/08/01/2003675708

Japan urged by China to deal with Fukushima-affected food

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Officers from the Beijing Food and Drug Administration check imported food at a supermarket on Thursday.

Report finds many e-commerce sites selling potentially unsafe products

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has urged the Japanese government to take more effective measures to handle the environmental aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and disclose information to ensure marine environmental safety and the safety of people in other countries.

Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, made the comment on Thursday following exposure by China’s State television station that food products from areas affected by the nuclear disaster in Japan are being sold in China.

China’s top food regulator promised on Thursday to punish such irregularities involving food safety exposed in China Central Television’s annual World Consumer Rights Day program on Wednesday.

“We have demanded local food and drug supervision authorities investigate the irregularities and transfer criminal suspects to public security authorities,” the China Food and Drug Administration said.

Food and drug authorities must strengthen supervision over food safety and severely punish culprits, it said.

Food from areas affected by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster have been sold on many e-commerce platforms in China and in some brick-and-mortar shops, including dairy, cereal, rice and wine, CCTV reported.

Although some of the products had labeling in Japanese that specified manufacturing locations such as Tokyo and Tochigi, they were covered by Chinese labels that only stated the manufacturing location as Japan, the report said.

China has banned the importation of food and animal feed from Tokyo and 11 prefectures, including Fukushima, Niigata-ken and Tochigi, since April 2011 to guard against risks, according to the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.

Major supermarkets and e-commerce platforms in Beijing started to inspect imported food products following the CCTV report and found no product from any of the 12 areas, Ji Ye, an official at Beijing Food and Drug Administration, said.

The administration is also conducting inspections of food enterprises in Beijing, including MUJI and 7-Eleven, and will recall any product that is imported from the affected areas, he said.

More than 13,000 online shops in China were suspected of selling food from these banned areas, according to the Shenzhen Market and Quality Supervision Commission, CCTV reported.

Law enforcement officers from the commission found nearly 20,000 packages of “Calbee” brand oatmeal, which is from Tochigi, at a company in Shenzhen, the report said.

Some supermarkets, including Japanese brand MUJI, are also suspected of violations, CCTV said.

MUJI said on Thursday that the two kinds of products, a cereal beverage and a muffin, are made in Fukui-ken and Osaka, which are not on the list of imports banned by China’s quality supervision authorities.

http://www.ecns.cn/2017/03-17/249602.shtml

http://www.pressreader.com/china/china-daily/20170317/281694024591810

Fukushima, Japan Ban On Fish Exports Over? After Nuclear Radiation Disaster, Countries Could Lift Embargo

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After years of banning Japan’s fish and agriculture, many countries might be willing to give the nation a second chance and import its goods. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011 and the resulting radiation in the region caused 54 countries and regions to implement restrictions on certain Japanese goods.

That number has shrunken to 33, with more nations likely to follow suit and lift the ban, the Japan Times reported Wednesday.

We are looking forward to the lifting of the South Korean import ban,” Masao Atsumi, a sea-squirt farmer in Miyagi prefecture, told the Japan Times.

South Korea, which received about 70 percent of Japan’s sea squirt exports, imposed a ban on fish imports from eight prefectures in Japan in 2013.

The European Union began easing its own restrictions on Japanese imports in 2016. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, Singapore and Russia all continued to ban products from certain regions.

Lifting such restrictions could be a sign that Japan, still heavily burdened by the disaster six years later, was on the road to recovery. The nuclear meltdown left a zone of more than 300 miles surrounding the plant uninhabitable, causing the evacuation of 160,000 residents. Many of those residents were set to begin returning in the coming days.

Despite progress, serious problems have continued to pervade the region. Due to melted fuel debris, radiation in the nuclear plant recently reached the highest levels ever recorded inside, with experts calling it “unimaginable.” Radiation reached such elevated levels that the robots tasked with cleaning the reactor could not survive. Tokyo Electric Power Company, the group responsible for the cleanup, was still struggling to complete the $188 billion recovery process to decommission the plant, a project estimated to take decades.

The barren region left behind by the disaster also has a wild boar problem. Hundreds of the animals began invading towns surrounding the defunct plant after residents fled, scavenging for food and virtually taking over.

http://www.ibtimes.com/fukushima-japan-ban-fish-exports-over-after-nuclear-radiation-disaster-countries-2508805