Sun, Nov 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

COA minister and Hau face off over Japanese food ban in live TV debate

Staff writer, with CNA

Council of Agriculture (COA) Deputy Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday debated the merits of lifting a ban on food imports from Japan in a live broadcast by Formosa TV (民視) ahead of a referendum on the issue on Nov. 24.

The two separately argued their positions on the issue in prepared presentations, with Chen saying that inspection rules for food imports would keep the public safe if the ban were lifted.

However, Hau, who proposed the referendum, said that radioactive residues in the areas pose a potential threat to consumers and food safety.

The referendum, one of 10 to be held alongside the nine-in-one elections, is to ask voters: “Do you agree that the government should maintain the ban on imports of agricultural products and food from areas in Japan affected by the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster on March 11, 2011, including Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures?”

Chen, who represented the government’s position that the ban should be lifted, said that Taiwan has stricter standards than other nations for inspecting food items for nuclear contamination.

The inspection process in Taiwan is transparent, meaning that the public can rest assured that any Japanese food allowed on store shelves is 100 percent safe, he said.

Hau said radiation leaks from the Fukushima power plant affected the soil, water and environment around it, and if radionuclides such as cesium and strontium affect fish or other produce, the effects would be felt for a long time.

If people in Taiwan were to consume tainted food, it would be like ingesting poison, posing a risk to food safety, Hau said.

Japan is geographically close and Taiwanese like to eat Japanese food, so the government should maintain a zero tolerance policy on food safety, and keep the ban, Hau added.

Taiwan imposed the ban on March 25, 2011, two weeks after the power plant was hit by a major earthquake and tsunami.

After the plant experienced a nuclear meltdown, large amounts of radioactive material leaked into the environment.

Hau said the public should not have to worry about eating contaminated Japanese food.

However, Chen said that the US, Singapore and South Korea, as well as European countries, closely inspect food imports from Japan for contamination, rather than continuing to impose a complete ban.

All of those countries allow sale of foods from radiation-affected areas in Japan if they pass inspections, he said.

Taiwan and China are the only nations in the world to maintain a complete ban on foods from the five prefectures, Chen said, adding that Taiwan should deal with the issue pragmatically.

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