MEPs warn of ‘radioactive food’ if checks on Japanese imports are relaxed

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European consumers could face increased exposure to “radioactive contaminated food” if checks placed on Japanese imports following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster are relaxed, members of the European Parliament warn.

In a non-binding resolution today (7 September), MEPs on the Committee for the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety urged the European Commission to withdraw a proposal that would reduce the number of Japanese foodstuffs that are checked for radioactive contamination.

Under existing legislation, food products from the 12 Japanese prefectures that were exposed to radioactive fallout in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster are subject to extra checks. Member states are currently required feed the results of this analysis into the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed every three months.

However, a new proposal from the European Commission could mean products such as rice, fish and mollusks from the region are allowed into the EU without “controls, sampling or analysis”, the MEPs suggested. They also noted that national governments would not need to continue reporting details of their analysis to the Commission.

No “justification or explanation” has been provided for the reduction in controls, they said.

The draft EC proposal was based on “detailed analysis” of data provided by the Japanese authorities for 2014, 2015 and 2016. However, the MEPs stressed, the Commission failed to share either this analysis or the raw data in the draft of proposed changes.
 
The resolution was adopted by a show of hands and will be put to a vote by the full House during the plenary session in Strasbourg next week.

A spokesperson for the European Parliament said that the “exact timing” of this vote is to be confirmed.

“During the committee debate this morning, the European Commission representative said that the standing committee will debate the matter later this month, for a vote in October,” the spokesperson explained.

Representatives for the EC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

EU-Japan trade deal

The proposals to relax restrictions on Japanese food exports come as the European Union and Japan work towards the conclusion of a free trade deal, which is hoped to be signed by the end of the year.

The potential agreement would remove the majority of duties paid by EU companies exporting to Japan, which total around €1bn annually, as well as opening the Japanese market to EU agricultural exports.

Speaking in July, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan said: “The EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is the most significant and far-reaching agreement ever concluded in agriculture.”

EU negotiators revealed the deal looks to scrap duties on certain dairy products, such as Gouda and Cheddar cheese, lower tariffs on beef exports and allow duty-free trade in processed pork and almost duty-free trade for fresh pork meat. Wine tariffs would also be cut.

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