Government calls Taiwan’s food-labeling move ‘regrettable’

The government on Tuesday called Taiwan’s plan to tighten regulations on Japanese food imports because of fears of radioactive contamination “extremely regrettable.”

The top government spokesman called on Taipei to use what he called “scientific findings” in drafting its rules.

“So far we have explained safety of foods produced in Japan and asked (Taiwan) to make judgment based on scientific findings,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable that Taiwan will strengthen regulations this time.”

On Monday, Taipei said it will introduce new regulations, possibly in mid-May, requiring all food imported from Japan to carry labeling declaring which prefecture it came from.

Four years after the meltdown at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Taiwan still bans the import of food produced in Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.

In March, Taiwan found that some products from those areas had been reaching its consumers. The scandal led to public outcry, prompting Taipei to announce the new import regulations.

Japan conducts sampling of foodstuffs for radioactive materials, and few samples are now being found to exceed safety levels.

Some wild vegetables, wild game, wild mushrooms, freshwater fish and bottom-dwelling ocean fish are among those that exceeded safe Japan’s mandated safety levels over the past year, and were thus banned from shipment.

Between April 1 last year and March 1, around 292,000 such samples were tested for radioactive cesium. Of them, 502, or 0.17 per cent, exceeded the government regulation level, the health ministry said. In fiscal 2012, the rate was 0.85 per cent.

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