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Countries Ban Imports Of Japanese Food As Radiation Leak Continues

Countries worldwide on Thursday banned or limited food imports from Japan, as radioactive steam continued to leak from the Fukushima nuclear plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Agence France-Presse reports.

“The United States and Hong Kong have already restricted Japanese food, and France wants the EU to do the same. Russia ordered a halt to food imports from four prefectures … Australia banned produce from the area, including seaweed and seafood, milk, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables,” the news service writes. Singapore, Canada and the Philippines also took action to limit food imports from Japan.

“Japan’s government has also halted shipments of untreated milk and vegetables from Fukushima and three adjoining prefectures, and stepped up radiation monitoring at another six, covering an area that borders Tokyo,” AFP reports. “The health ministry has detected 82,000 becquerels of radioactive caesium – 164 times the safe limit – in the green vegetable kukitachina, and elevated levels in another 10 vegetables, including cabbage and turnips,” according to the news service (Poupee, 3/24).

Meanwhile, radiation concerns spread to Tokyo where authorities “warned that very young children in the Japanese capital should not drink tap water after it was found to contain twice the levels of radioactive iodine considered safe for infants,” the Guardian reports. “Tokyo’s water bureau said babies and infants under the age of one should not be given tap water, but added that radiation levels did not pose an immediate risk to adults” (McCurry, 3/23). A post on Science’s “Science Insider” blog examines how the radiation levels could effect human health and reports on when radiation levels in food and water might go down (Kaiser, 3/23).

Japan’s government is considering importing bottled water from overseas, as well as other options, Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, said at a news conference, the New York Times reports. “On Thursday, the authorities began the daunting task of distributing bottled water to the families of an estimated 80,000 infants, defined as children under 1 year old. Mr. Edano said that radiation had also been found in tests of water supplies for two of Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures, Chiba and Saitama, adding to the anxiety about public safety posed by Japan’s unfolding nuclear crisis. The levels in both prefectures were above maximum recommended limits for infants, according to Japan’s stringent measures, but still below levels considered dangerous to adults” (Jolly/Grady, 3/24).

Humanitarian Situation Improving

“Food aid is flowing, refugees are restoring daily routines, and even mobile banks are appearing in north Japan as the nation rallies around victims of the March 11 double disaster,” Reuters reports. “Nearly two weeks after an earthquake and tsunami plunged the Asian nation into its worst crisis since World War II, an increasingly thorough and successful humanitarian relief operation is replacing the scenes of suffering and devastation,” according to the news service. 

Power and water services have been restored in some areas, but people are still drinking water from military tanks because safety tests have not been run, Reuters writes (Fujioka/Herskovitz, 3/24).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.