The Consumers’ Foundation yesterday urged the government to tighten an import ban on Japanese food products manufactured near the ill-fated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, on the heels of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s recent revelation that it is mulling relaxing the ban.
Consumers’ Foundation chief inspector Ling Young-chien (凌永健), a chemistry professor at National Tsing Hua University, said that Taiwan only prohibits food imports from five Japanese prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba — compared with China and Macau’s ban on eight prefectures and the US’ 14.
“In addition, the nation’s safety tolerance limit for radioactive content is also much higher than that of Japan. Our government permits 370 becquerels per kilogram [Bq/kg] of cesium-134 and cesium-137 combined in food products, while Japan only allows 100Bq/kg in foodstuffs and an even lower level of 50Bq/kg in dairy products and baby formula,” Ling told a news conference in Taipei.
Given the two nations’ geographical proximity, there should not be such a large difference between their safety limits for radioactive isotopes, Ling said.
The foundation also urged the government to follow the 26 countries demanding an official place of origin and radiation detection report for Japanese food products.
The non-profit organization’s hope for a more stringent restriction on Japanese food imports might be misplaced, in light of Minister of Health and Welfare Chiang Been-huang’s (蔣丙煌) comment on March 25 that the government was considering relaxing the ban.
The foundation also called for a revision of the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法) to increase the severity of penalties levied against manufacturers of tainted medicines, amid a growing case in which five pharmaceutical companies used magnesium carbonate and calcium carbonate intended for industrial use in their production of stomach medicines.
“The Pharmaceutical Affairs Act stipulates a maximum fine of NT$30,000 [US$958.37] and a prison term of no longer than one year for manufacturing substandard medicines, while the recently revised Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法) stipulates that producers of adulterated or tainted foodstuffs could face up to NT$200 million in fines and 10 years in prison,” Consumers’ Foundation secretary-general Lu Hsin-chang (盧信昌) said.
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