Thailand has expanded its watch list of Japanese food imports amid growing concern over radioactive leaks at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant complex.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday that fruits and vegetables from Japan’s Honshu island would join seafood products in being checked for radiation.
Russia, Australia and Singapore have joined other countries in halting imports of food products from the affected area.
FDA secretary-general Pipat Yingseree said samples from every shipment of vegetables and fruit from Japan would be taken for lab tests to ensure radiation levels did not exceed safety limits.
Importers would be asked to delay distributing products until officials can confirm they are not contaminated.
“For public safety, we have to impose systematic controls on vegetable and fruit imports since these products will be the first line of possible contamination in the wake of the radiation leak from the nuclear power plant,” Dr Pipat said.
Vegetables and fruits will be first on the test list due to their short shelf life.
Jams, strawberries and dried persimmon are major food imports from Japan along with frozen seafood delivered to Japanese restaurants in Bangkok.
So far, 39 food samples including mackerel, octopus, shrimp, jams, strawberries and persimmon have been sent for testing. None has had a radiation level that has exceeded the legal limits, Dr Pipat said.
Prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said checks on food imports from Japan through Klong Toey port have shown no radioactive contamination.
The FDA chief believes it is still too early to impose a total ban on Japanese food produce.
The amount of vegetables and fruit imported to Thailand is small compared with neighbouring countries.
But Dr Pipat said systematic controls would soon be extended to cover other agricultural produce including grains, meat and dairy products, while other processed food and snacks would be on future radiation monitoring lists.
Explosions at the nuclear plant have stoked global anxiety. The United States and Hong Kong have restricted Japanese food, and France wants the European Union to do the same. Russia ordered a halt to food imports from four prefectures of Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi near the nuclear plant. Australia also banned produce from the area, including seaweed and seafood, milk, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables. Singapore also suspended imports of milk products and other foodstuffs from the same four prefectures, while Canada implemented enhanced import controls on products from the areas.The Philippines has banned Japanese chocolate imports.