TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Out of the 365 food products from radiation stricken regions in Japan, at least 333 items were pronounced radiation-safe by the Atomic Energy Council (AEC) after a detailed examination yesterday.
The products were imported from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba prefectures in Japan, all of which have been affected by the nuclear accident caused by the earthquake that rocked the nation in 2011.
The goods came into Taiwan with labels claiming false points of origin; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and local government branch offices have ordered all suspicious products to be removed from stores and retailers to prevent further misunderstandings.
The inaccurate labeling of the food products was reportedly discovered during a customs inspection.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) said that it is possible that the labels were tampered with in Japan, before they were brought to Taiwan.
The MHW said it had asked the AEC to inspect the food products for traces of caesium-137 and 134, which are radioactive isotopes of caesium formed in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.
After the investigations were carried out, the FDA corrected the information issued on Wednesday and said that - after ticking off repeated, misreported and adding other suspicious products - the number of potentially irradiated products had dropped to 286.
The number of food importers that violated the regulations was raised from 10 to 13 yesterday.
The Taipei District Prosecutors Office announced yesterday that it would be launching probes in the case as well.
Importers Called to Provide Information
Should the named importers feel wronged, they would have to provide proof of the products' actual origins in Japan to claim their innocence in this, said FDA official Wang Te-yuan.
"Then the FDA will confirm if the information is true with the Japanese government. I am sure that everyone knows whether the Japanese government or the Japanese importers are more reliable regarding the credibility of the labels ... but the question now would be, can the importers get official proof from the Japanese government?" said Wang.
"The food products have been removed as a precautionary measure; if the importers cannot provide proof of the true origins, the products will be removed for good and then destroyed," said Wang.
More than 104 tons of food products have been confiscated as of press time.
Despite that the products were pronounced radiation-free, no food products should be imported from the five prefectures, Wang continued.
Premier Mao Chi-kuo said yesterday that appropriate punishment will be issued to the departments and companies that have neglected to prevent these products from reaching Taiwan.
Importers that have violated the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation due to the false labeling may face fines from NT$30,000 (S$1,300) to NT$3 million.
Kirin to Destroy Products
Japanese beverage company Kirin announced via the Taipei Department of Health that it will be destroying four kinds of its popular milk tea and black tea products soon; an official report will be filed on March 31.
Kirin has pulled all of its drinks from shelves last night - a whopping 83 tons.
The Department of Health also confirmed that it has tracked down retailers selling the suspicious products, including supermarkets like Wellcome, Matsusei and department stores including SOGO and Shinkong Mitsukoshi.