Japan food imports need certification: Taiwan health ministry

Japan food imports need certification: Taiwan health ministry
A woman shops for vegetables at a market in Taipei

Starting May 15, all food imported from Japan will require certification clearly stating their points of origin, and for products from certain regions, documents confirming radiation examinations will also be required, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) announced yesterday.

Since the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster hit Japan on March 11, 2011, all food products from Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba and Gunma prefectures have been banned from entry into Taiwan, as they were found to contain radioactive substances that exceeded the level considered safe for human consumption.

Earlier this March, however, food products from the five irradiated regions listed above were falsely labelled as having come from non-restricted origins. According to the MHW, all relevant products have been pulled off the shelves.

The MHW yesterday announced that starting May 15, while the current ban on food imports from irradiated regions remains, all products from any area in Japan will need government-issued statements clarifying their origin, and for certain types of food from certain regions, certification proving radiation examination results is also required.

Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Chief Chiang Yu-mei yesterday said that "inspections will be imposed at a lenient standard level," adding that certifications issued by local governments or government authorised institutions will also be accepted.

Japan to Sue Taiwan in WTO

In response to the nation's latest regulations, Japanese officials protested that they run contrary to current trade agreements and that they will bring this case to World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The public has also raised suspicions that this new regulation may damage the economic relationship between Taiwan and Japan. MHW Minister Chiang Been-huang yesterday said even if the case goes to the WTO, "we still hold a reasonable and tenable argument."

Chiang said that the March scandal implied ineffectiveness of the current law and monitoring system on food safety, therefore the new measures are logical and reasonable. Moreover, he called upon Japanese officials to work together on this matter, and enhance both sides' quality control.

In response to the public suspicion toward the regulations possibly harming the nation's economic bonds with Japan, Economics Minister John Deng yesterday said that more communication will be required between the two countries, and that hopefully this matter will be settled quickly.

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