Food imports from areas near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant carry “negligible” radiation risk to human health, a report commissioned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
Taiwan has banned food imports from five Japanese prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba — since the nuclear disaster, which was caused by a tsunami on March 11, 2011.
A group of researchers from Tzu Chi University, National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital and NTU College of Public Health examined more than 540,000 test results for food products from a Japanese database to assess their potential effects on human health.
Screen grab from the Food and Drug Administration’s Web site
The report was completed in 2017, but it was published on the agency’s Web site only on Thursday.
If Taiwan allows imports of all Japanese food products, 97.5 percent of Taiwanese would have an additional radiation exposure of less than 1 millisievert (mSv) per year, much less than the average annual background exposure of 2.4mSv in daily life, the report said.
Even when ignoring the natural decay of radioactivity in foods and their decontamination, the risk of developing cancer due to Japanese food would not be higher than one in 100,000, the report said.
Judging from the data, potential radioactivity of Japanese foods and the health risks they pose are negligible, said Tzu Chi University associate professor Hsieh Wan-hua (謝婉華), who led the research.
A majority of Taiwanese in a referendum in November last year voted in favor of continuing a government ban on food imports from the five prefectures.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare completed its review of the report just as the referendum was about to take place, so the agency refrained from publishing it to avoid affecting the vote, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Division deputy head Wei Jen-ting (魏任廷) said on Friday, adding that officials are obligated to be administratively neutral.
The government has to respect the referendum’s result and maintain the ban for two years, he said.
At the end of last year, the FDA also commissioned an NTU research team to sample food products from the prefectures, and all of the 301 samples have passed tests according to Taiwan’s food radioactivity standards.
The results of that research were also published on the agency’s Web site on Thursday.
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