Local sushi bars that import fish from Japan yesterday tried to ease consumers’ concerns about eating food potentially contaminated by radioactive fallout following explosions at a nuclear power plant on Japan’s northeastern coast.
The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is located in northeastern Honshu, which is known for its fish and fishery products. Radiation levels at the plant have been surging after it was disabled by a major earthquake and tsunami on Friday.
However, Japanese restaurants in Taiwan said that not all of their ingredients come from that part of Japan, adding that given transportation and logistical concerns, they stopped buying from suppliers in the area soon after the earthquake struck.
“We stopped purchasing from quake-affected areas of Japan one day after it hit and started buying things like scallops from farmers in Hokkaido, a more remote region,” said Chang Yen-chuan, spokesperson for the Mitsui Food and Beverage Enterprise Group, owner of several well-known Japanese restaurants in Taiwan.
“We have decided to absorb the extra costs of transportation of the scallops and have no immediate plans to raise prices,” Chang said.
Chang advised customers not to panic because few of the ingredients the restaurants use originate from the disaster-hit area.
Sushi Express Group, a company that manages 143 sushi restaurants nationwide, said its business had not been affected because it only imported salmon roe and scallops from Japan.
“Our fish comes from Norway and Taiwan mostly,” an executive at the group’s headquarters said. “Our last stock came in before the earthquake and our inventory can last until summer. We also have a contingency plan to change suppliers.”
To reassure consumers, Sushi Express has set up signs outside its restaurants stating that it had enough supply to meet demand and that its food is free of radioactive substances.
Another sushi bar that serves cheaper set meals in Taipei said it uses only locally supplied fish.
“Taiwan has higher quality fish than Japan,” said the restaurant’s owner, who identified herself only by the surname Wang. “I’ve also heard that the shortage in Japan because of the earthquake and the tsunami could trigger an increase in fish exports by Taiwan.”
Based on international customs regulations, fresh produce from contaminated areas should not be harvested, the Food and Drug Administration said.
The agency added that it would conduct random inspections of food shipments from Japan at their point of entry to safeguard food safety.