With rising fears of nuclear radiation contaminating the Japanese food chain, the Indian government has decided to ban the import of all food items from Japan for at least the next three months.
The suspension of imports will be “for a period of three months or till such time as credible information is available that the radiation hazard has subsided to acceptable limits,” according to a statement issued by the Health Ministry on Tuesday. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) will carry out weekly reviews of the situation.
India has been testing food from Japan ever since last month's tsunami triggered a nuclear crisis there, with several reactors facing threats of meltdown, and releasing radiation into the air and water. In fact, the Customs department was asked to check samples of food from Japan at all import points.
However, the government has now decided that stronger action is warranted. “It was concluded that since the radiation is spreading/expanding horizontally in other parts of Japan, it may result in further radioactive contamination in the supply chain of food exports from Japan,” said the statement.
In fact, the Japanese government has itself restricted the distribution of milk, vegetables and fish from areas near the contaminated sites. Seawater near the crippled Fukushima plant has been found to contain five million times the legal limit of radioactive iodine, according to the plant operator. The Fukushima area surrounding the damaged nuclear plant is one of the country's top producers of fruits, vegetables and rice. Across the world, governments are screening or restricting the import of Japanese food.
The ban decision was taken at meeting convened by FSSAI chairman P.I. Suvrathan, and was attended by representatives and experts from the Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, Central Board of Excise and Customs and the Shriram Institute for Industrial Research.