U.S. regulators are considering testing Japanese food imports for radiation exposure in response to that country’s nuclear crisis.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is monitoring Japanese food for contamination from radiation leaks at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant and weighing steps that “may include increased and targeted product sampling,” the agency said in an e-mailed statement.
Seafood, snack foods and processed produce from Japan represents less than 4 percent of all food imported into the U.S. and products already in the country are safe because they shipped prior to the earthquake and tsunami that triggered radiation leaks, according to the agency. The FDA and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have the authority to police imports at ports.
“FDA will be examining both food products labeled as having originated in Japan or having passed through Japan in transit,” the agency said. “The same is true for raw ingredients.”
The statement echoes a declaration made by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization today that only food near the plant is at risk. Countries nearer to Japan, including South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore, are already testing imports.
Damage to Japan’s infrastructure has “severely limited” exports from the country and seafood is unlikely to be contaminated because radiation would be “rapidly and effectively diluted” by the ocean, the FDA said.
Radiation isn’t the only safety consideration that U.S. authorities will have to consider, said Benjamin England, founder of FDAImports.com LLC, a Columbia, Maryland-based firm that consults with companies importing food, drugs and medical devices. The natural disasters created unsanitary conditions and damaged refrigeration capacity, which is likely to cause more damage than radioactive fallout, he said by telephone Monday.