Group urges checks on imported food

TRIED AND TESTED::The foundation said the number of samples of imported food from Japan tested for radiation contamination was significantly lower than in Hong Kong

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Sep 07, 2013 - Page 4

The Homemakers United Foundation yesterday urged the government to enforce stricter radiation inspections on imported food.

The group issued the call following the confirmation by Tokyo Electric Power Co, operator of Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, that 300 tonnes of radiation-contaminated water from a steel tank had leaked into groundwater and possibly into the sea.

Foundation president Chen Man-li (陳曼麗) said radiation leakage from Fukushima has contaminated the seawater and nearby soil, and while many Taiwanese like to eat seafood, the government has not taken any precautions against the importation of possible contaminated food from Japan.

“It’s been two years since the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster, but the total number of samples [of food products imported from Japan tested for radiation levels] is only 40,000, while Hong Kong’s authorities have already tested more than 150,000 samples,” she said, adding that both South Korea and Hong Kong immediately release their reports on contaminated food to the public.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) said that government statistics showed that the number of food samples tested during a week in Taiwan (202 from Aug. 19 to Aug. 25 this year) is fewer than the number tested during one day in Hong Kong (299 between 12am Aug. 19 and 12am on Aug. 20), and that the permitted level in Taiwan was even raised last year.

Chiang Shou-shan (江守山), a nephrologist at Shin-Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital, suggested that the public avoid eating migrating fishes, such as tuna, flounder and greenling, because they may have higher levels of radiation accumulated in their bodies.

Although some forms of radiation can be blocked by wearing an aluminum or radiation protection suit, our stomachs remain unprotected, he said, adding that radioactive substances in food may continue to damage the body for a long time after consumption.

Meanwhile, in related developments, the DPP, noting the state-run Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower) refusal to arrange former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan’s visit to the No. 1 reactor at the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in Wanli District (萬里), New Taipei City (新北市), because of Kan’s anti-nuclear position, said yesterday that Taipower seemed to be implying that only those who supported nuclear energy would be welcome to visit power plants.

“The refusal highlighted Taipower’s pro-nuclear position and its violation of diplomatic protocol,” DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said.

The President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration and Taipower have both violated Article 23 of the Basic Environment Act (環境基本法), which stipulates that the government must make plans to gradually achieve the goal of becoming a nuclear-free country, Lin said.

Kan is slated to visit Taiwan from Sept. 12 to Sept. 15 for a series of events to express his opposition to nuclear power.

Additional reporting by Chris Wang and CNA