The Homemakers United Foundation held a demonstration at the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday, criticizing its safety standards for radiation contaminated food and saying that it puts the public at risk of consuming food without knowing about its potential dangers.
In light of fears about radiation contamination following last year’s disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, the foundation said that while Taiwan is the second-largest importer of Japanese food products, and Japanese food products account for the largest share in Taiwan’s imported food import market, the government plans to loosen regulations on radioactive isotopes in food.
Presenting thousands of petition postcards it has collected from the public since October, the foundation asked the government not to relax standards and criticized the DOH for not making information about radiation-contaminated food public.
The foundation said that according to a DOH report on residual radiation in imported Japanese food products, more than 125 items showed levels of Cesium-134, Cesium-137 or Iodine-131. However, the products were still allowed to be sold and consumers are unaware of which products contain these harmful substances, the foundation said.
Foundation president Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said the DOH’s advisory committee lacked expertise on radioactive pollution and food safety. The DOH had also failed to explain what risk evaluation or research results its decision to amend the regulations were based on, she added.
National Alliance of Taiwan Women’s Associations chairperson Chen Hsiu-hui (陳秀惠) said since such information is not available to consumers, many women are worried about buying food for their families.
The foundation, along with representatives from a number of civic groups, urged the DOH to make public a health risk evaluation report on the safety of radiation contamination food, disclose the methods by which its safety standards are reached and hold explanatory sessions, as well as publishing an imported food radiation inspection report on a daily basis.
In response, the DOH’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that although an amended Standard of Safety Tolerance of Nuclear Fallout or Radioactivity Contamination for Food (食品中原子塵或放射能污染安全容許量標準) was announced on June 29, it was later postponed after civic groups expressed opposition. Safety standards therefore remain unchanged and await re-evaluation, it said.
The FDA added that all food product imports from Japan’s Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures are still suspended and eight types of food from Japan — including fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy produce and infant food — are still subject to lot by lot inspection.
Additional reporting by Staff writer