Almost a month after Japan was devastated by a high-intensity earthquake, followed by radiation from nuclear reactors, the government has banned import of food articles from that country with immediate effect.
The ban will be in place for at least three months, according to an advisory issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), under the health and family welfare ministry.
“Import of food articles coming from Japan stand suspended with immediate effect for a period of three months or till such time as credible information is available that the radiation hazard has subsided to acceptable limits,” the FSSAI order said today. The authority will carry out weekly reviews to assess the situation.
On Monday, FSSAI had called a meeting on food imports from Japan in view of the radioactive incidents at the nuclear power plants. Experts attending the meeting came to the conclusion that “since the radiation was spreading/expanding horizontally in other parts of Japan, it may result in further radioactive contamination in the supply chain of food exports from Japan.” Nuclear-contaminated food can cause cancer and other diseases, according to experts.
The meeting, headed by FSSAI Chairperson P I Suvrathan, was attended by representatives from the Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology, Bhabha Atomic Research Institute, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Central Board of Excise & Customs and Shriram Institute for Industrial Research.
Among the products that India imports from Japan include dairy items, coffee, tea, vegetables and honey. But the quantity of import of food items from Japan is not very large.
The US, Canada, China, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore have already suspended import of food products from Japan.
Immediately after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, FSSAI had issued an advisory citing concerns of possible radiation leakage from affected nuclear plants. “There’s need to increase surveillance of food imports from Japan to ensure they are safe for consumption,” the authority had said on March 15, four days after the quake in Japan. It had notified a laboratory to test for nuclear contamination of food items, mainly seafood, fruits, vegetables and meat.
A few days later, FSSAI came out with another advisory, authorising two more labs for monitoring food imports from Japan to check radioactive contamination.