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Japanese Food Imports: Is It Really Safe?

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Someone alerted me to the news that Taiwan has banned or is requiring more stringent certifications for Japanese food exports to their country.

After the Fukushima disaster in Mar 2011 (dubbed 3/11 disaster), all countries worldwide imposed bans on Japanese food imports. These were then progressively and selectively lifted.

In Apr 2013, Singapore lifted most bans except for products from Fukushima and its adjacent prefectures. This was further eased when even food from Fukushima was allowed in effective 31 May 2014.

Meantime, neighbours closer to Japan also reconsidered their bans. A Dec 2013 research report to the HK Legco concluded that ‘when viewed against the number of prefectures and categories
of food covered under the food control measures, the Mainland China and South Korea are the most stringent, the US and the EU to a lesser extent, and Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore the least.’

Developments Since
However, whilst Singaporeans were happily snapping up Japanese food imports after April 2013, S Korea did an about-turn in Sep 2013 and expanded Japanese Food Ban to 50 Products. Apparently, our cocksure AVA saw no need to explain (not that I read of) or advise how or where our imports are different from the Koreans.

It appears that the more stringent ban has continued to this day as Reuters reported 21 May that Japan takeing South Korea to WTO over Fukushima-related food import restrictions.

Meanwhile over in Taiwan, 24 Mar 2015, the government of Taiwan announced they found food products from Japanese contaminated areas were illegally imported, deceptively labelled and sold in department stores. Apparently, products labels were falsified, stating their origin to be from areas in Japan other than those banned prefectures such as Chiba, Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki or Tochigi. Consequently, from 5/15/2015, all food imports from Japan will be required to carry certificates proving that they are not from the five banned areas (incl Fukushima), while some will also need “radiation inspection certificates,” according to the Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Unlike Taiwan, S Korea and China continue to insist on each batch of imports carrying certificates of origin (prefecture) and/or proof of radiation testings even for those acceptable to import.

Singapore AVA – Nothing to Report
AVA has explained how it had carried out a comprehensive risk assessment on the safety of the food supply in Japan before lifting the ban. At the same time, there are 4 measures to ensure compliance.

Should we be confident that our Japanese food imports and the safety of those citizens who can afford Japanese produce on occasions are being adequately looked after by AVA? There are 2 reasons why we must call AVA to account.

One, how plausible is it that the Japanese are ‘mislabelling’ their product origin for exports to countries but not to Singapore? Why are Singaporeans favoured to be immune to such unethical – and potentially fatal – misdeeds? Is it because we never ‘kpkb’ about Japanese torture and comfort women during WWII? Or is it because our PM LHL gets special attention from PM Abe?

Two, the episode with the Sengkang columbarium offers cold comfort on the competence or due diligence or both of our government agencies assigned the task to perform their functions. They work on the SOP that once the rules are in place, they expect full compliance – without having to check. They have unequivocal faith in the complete truthfulness of businessmen. Or they are too busy planning their next trip to France to learn how to prepare advanced French cuisine. Meantime, their political masters are too busy with vainglory projects or spending obscene taxpayers’ money to secure that photo-opp with world figures or fixing the opposition and planning how to extent their tenure in order to continue enjoying their multi$mil salaries.

Are we not entitled to know what the Japanese food import situation is? Or is it ‘not in our strategic interest’ to be informed?

Law Kim Hwee


One thought on “Japanese Food Imports: Is It Really Safe?

  1. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/cms_ia/importalert_621.html
    Detention Without Physical Examination of Products from Japan Due to Radionuclide Contamination


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