Tue, Nov 27, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Safety top issue for imports: minister

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Safety is the main consideration when importing foods, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday, when asked whether referendum No. 9, which asked the government to maintain a ban on food imports from 31 regions in Japan, would be implemented.

The referendum, initiated by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), asked whether the government should maintain a ban on food imports from 31 regions in Japan’s Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures imposed after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster on March 2011.

Seventy-eight percent of ballots were cast in favor of continuing the ban.

The ban was imposed during the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the KMT, and President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) Cabinet has considered lifting the ban from all but Fukushima Prefecture.

Chen made the remarks yesterday morning while reporting to the Legislative Yuan on a national liver disease prevention project.

KMT Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安) said that 7.79 million people voted in favor of maintaining the ban because they have lost their faith in the government’s ability to ensure food safety.

Taiwan should form an investigation group to visit Japan, like South Korea and the US did, rather than relying on reports from the Japanese government, Chiang said.

Chen said he understands that people are concerned about the safety of food from the 31 regions and many factors affected the referendum result, including misconceptions among some.

“However, the result has shown the public’s opposition to nuclear-contaminated foods, this point is clear,” he said.

Asked by KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) whether the ministry would continue to enforce the ban for two more years, as the referendum demanded, Chen said that the ministry would respect the public’s view and in a few days — after consulting the Cabinet — would outline how policies are to be implemented.

“The referendum result reflects the public’s view,” Chen said.

“Safety has always been the ministry’s only concern when considering imports of any food products,” he said.

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