US lifts post-Fukushima import restrictions on Japanese agricultural products

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Citing “robust control measures”, the United States on Wednesday lifted the ban on imports of food products from prefectures affected by the earthquake, tsunami and the triple disaster that struck the northeast. Japan in 2011.

The ban, which was put in place following the collapses triggered by the tsunami at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, affected 100 agricultural, forestry, fish and food products from 14 prefectures, including rice and mushrooms. shiitake produced in Fukushima.

The other 13 prefectures were Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Niigata, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka.

Ten years after the accident, the number of countries and regions that have imposed import restrictions now stands at 14, up from 55 initially.

The news was immediately welcomed in Japan, where authorities have long insisted that products from the affected areas could be consumed safely.

“This decision is long overdue by residents of the disaster areas, and it will be of great help in their recovery efforts. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga tweeted Wednesday. “Japan warmly welcomes this decision. “

Suga added that he was “deeply moved” by the change in US policy.

“I personally lobbied President (Joe) Biden for the speedy removal of the ban during my visit to the United States in April,” Suga added. “The government must continue to work together to remove import restrictions in every country and region. “

In announcing the decision, the United States Food and Drug Administration cited “an in-depth analysis of Japan’s robust control measures” and highlighted 10 years of sampling food products from Japan.

The move came after the FDA determined “a very low risk to US consumers of radioactively contaminated food imported from Japan,” the agency said in a statement.

The EU has also decided to ease its import restrictions next month.

The value of Japanese agricultural and food exports to the United States was 118.8 billion yen in 2020, making it Japan’s third-largest export destination after Hong Kong and China, according to the ministry.

“The impact of (the US decision) is huge,” said an Agriculture Department official, expressing hope that countries that still impose restrictions will be encouraged to relax or lift them.

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