Fukushima food imports to Korea top 250 tons

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Fukushima food imports to Korea top 250 tons

Korea imported more than 226,000 kilograms (250 tons) of processed food from Fukushima Prefecture between January 2011 and July this year, according to a report by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety released on Wednesday. Japan was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that crippled nuclear reactors and led to a radiation leak.

The imported processed products include sake, pickled fish guts, grains and dried fish.

The report was made public on the requests of opposition lawmaker Lee Mok-hee, who serves on the parliamentary health and welfare committee.

Imports of produce such as rice and fish were banned last year, but some of the processed goods made from those items were not restricted, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker said, and called for the contents of processed goods to be more closely monitored.

“Agricultural products are banned from being imported, but goods made from produce in Fukushima are allowed to be sold to the public,” Lee said in a statement.

Sake has been the second or third most imported good from Japan in the past four years. Since the disaster in 2011, 14,176 kilograms of sake has been imported from Fukushima. The amount decreased from 6,612 in 2012 to 4,073 last year.

Despite diminishing imports, Lee said that the government should more closely monitor the products.

“Ninety percent of sake is made up of water,” Lee continued. “So the government should have checked whether the water contained a dangerous level of [radioactive] cesium.”

The lawmaker said that a third of the sake imported from Japan comes from Fukushima or nearby prefectures.

In 2011, the sea near the nuclear plant showed escalated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium, prompting the Japanese government to start testing seafood coming from the area.

Lee accused food-related government agencies of failing to monitor shipments from Fukushima.

The Food Ministry said in the report that the items from Fukushima are inspected before they are allowed into Korea. But Lee said that it is not enough to check only a sample of the imports.

He also pointed out that no government agency is aware of the place of origin of the water and rice used to make Fukushima’s sake.

“I’ve contacted the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as well as the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety and the Korea Customs Service,” Lee said in the statement. “But they just passed on the responsibility to other departments.”

The Korean government banned imports of seafood and produce including rice, mushrooms and plums from eight Japanese prefectures near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant last year.

Japan cried foul over the ban on fisheries products, calling it excessive.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]















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