The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it is mulling lifting the ban on foodstuffs from five prefectures in Japan, with an online poll held by the agency showing support for the proposed deregulation.
However, civic groups have described the poll as oversimplifying the matter and said there was a lack of transparency in the government’s food inspection and information disclosure.
Food products from Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures have been banned in Taiwan following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011.
The FDA is considering lifting the ban except for food products from Fukushima.
FDA Deputy Director-General Wu Hsiu-ying (吳秀英) said that the proposed deregulation would be conditional, and low-risk products such as instant noodles and processed products might be unblocked in the first round, while baby foods would still be prohibited.
The agency conducted an online poll to gauge public sentiment on permitting certain food imports from Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba under the condition that the products have certificates of place of origin and radiation test results and that they must clear Taiwanese customs inspections.
The poll ended on Sunday and collected 40,343 responses, with 78.3 percent of respondents saying that they agree with the deregulation and 21.6 percent saying that they disagree.
The poll came about three months after the agency tightened regulations on Japanese food imports on May 15, which required that such imports must come with labels of their place of origin and Japanese and Taiwanese authorization certificates, following an incident in March in which Japanese food imports from the five prefectures were found under fake labels.
The agency is also planning to lower the permissible limit for radioactivity in food from 370 becquerels (Bq) to 100Bq to be in line with the regulations in Japan.
There is no definite timetable for the measures to be implemented, it said.
The Homemakers United Foundation said that the poll oversimplified the issue by only asking respondents whether they agree or disagree with the proposed deregulation without providing substantial information on the potential danger of food products from nuclear-affected areas.
The foundation said that high levels of cesium radiation — up to 55,700Bq per square meter — was detected in soils 100km from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in July last year, and high levels of radiation were also detected in aquatic products last month, while soybeans produced in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi, Gunma, Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures were found to have been severely polluted in 2013.
Soybeans and derived products are among the largest Japanese food imports, the foundation said, adding that the FDA must reconsider the proposed deregulation and map out measures to control radioactive contamination.
Saying it is glad to see that the FDA plans to lower the permissible limit for radioactivity in foods, the foundation added that the agency’s information disclosure and food inspection procedures were opaque, making its well-meaning attempts futile.
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