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Abe with Lee in May in S'pore

Fukushima rice reaches Singapore for first time since nuclear accident

Abe with Lee in May in S'pore
Abe with Lee in May in S'pore

Japan's export of rice from Fukushima for the first time since the nuclear accident in 2011 – and Singapore is the recipient of the 300kg of rice.

The Japan Times reports, “Three hundred kilograms of the Koshihikari brand of rice produced in the city of Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, has arrived in Singapore, and will be sold at a supermarket from Friday after clearing customs, according to the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the rice “will be sold in five-kilogram bags at a local Japanese supermarket beginning this Friday.”

“We will check the rice thoroughly in Fukushima before shipping it overseas, and then the bags will undergo another check in Singapore,” a spokesman for the federation, known as Zen-noh, told Japan Real Time.

In May, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that Singapore would lift the 3-year ban on Japanese food products from Fukushima with “immediate effect” during the visit by his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe. (See here.)

The lifting of the ban then raised health concerns from members of the public in Singapore. When questioned about this, the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said food products imported from Japan are safe for consumption.

A member of the public asked the AVA on its Facebook page then if the agency would impose “prominent labelling” of such foods in Singapore, with labels to indicate that such food products are “Imported from Fukushima” so that consumers can make informed choices.

In its reply, the AVA did not say if it would impose labelling on the products but it did say, “We have been monitoring food imports from Japan and rest assured that our surveillance results have been satisfactory.” (See update below.)

The AVA also said that before it lifted its restrictions, it “had carried out a comprehensive risk assessment on the safety of the food supply in Japan.”

It added, “Before food can be imported from Fukushima, the Japanese authorities have to show evidence of satisfactory surveillance results for radioactive contamination. E.g. the radioactive levels in the areas of food production are required to be within Japan’s safety standards.”

The AVA had conducted “on-site assessment” earlier this year to verify and understand the safety measures imposed by Japan.

Before any products can be exported to Singapore, Japanese authorities need to show evidence of satisfactory surveillance results for radioactive contamination in these prefectures.

According to news reports, import restrictions that remain in place are:

a) Seafood and products from the forest in the prefectures of Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma will still require pre-export tests;

b) Seafood and products from the forest as well as agricultural produce from demarcated areas and the control zone2 (close to the nuclear power plant) in Fukushima prefecture are not allowed to be imported.

All food products from Japan still require a Certificate of Origin (COO) to identify the prefecture of origin of the food product.

Some countries continue to impose bans on the import of food items from Japan, fearing the risk of contamination from the Fukishima Daiichi nuclear accident.

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UPDATE (19 August 2014, 20:55hrs):

A Japanese official with the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh), said the exported rice from Fukushima to Singapore "will be marked and it will not be mixed with other produce."

"Despite our efforts at explaining the safety of Fukushima-made farm products, up until now we have not been able to find retailers who wished to trade rice grown in Fukushima," said an official for Zen-Noh. "From now on, we aim to export more Fukushima rice, including to Singapore."

The rice was grown some 60km to 80km west of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, according to the Japanese official. (Straits Times)