- Title: CHINA: China tightens Japan food checks
- Date: 23rd March 2011
- Summary: NEWSPAPERS HANGING FROM NEWS STAND NEWSPAPERS NEWSPAPER HEADLINE READING "Safety checks for Japanese food" NEWSPAPERS
- Embargoed: 7th April 2011 12:26
- Location: China, China
- Country: China
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA2A8DG6CTXXI6VSXACNES7BW1P
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: China has started checking imported Japanese food for radioactivity following explosions at a nuclear plant damaged in Japan's earthquake, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday (March 22) in Beijing.
From Monday (March 21) China, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) says is one of the main markets for Japanese food products, has been monitoring food imported from Japan for signs of radiation, Jiang Yu (pron: jeeang yoo) said at a regular Foreign Ministry news briefing.
"The state quality watchdog has asked local offices to carry out port inspections to make radioactivity inspections on food imported from Japan, to ensure the safety of the imported food," she said.
The WHO says it has no evidence of contaminated food spreading internationally, but officials in Japan's Ibaraki and Fukushima prefectures, the areas closest to the earthquake-damaged Daiichi nuclear plant, found higher than usual levels of iodine in samples of spinach and milk.
However, Taiwan announced it had found a small amount of radiation on the shells of imported Japanese broad beans in a shipment over the weekend, but said the radiation levels were within limits.
Although he said more data needed to be gathered from Japan, Beijing-based WHO food safety expert Peter Ben Embarek was confident that China had taken all the necessary measures to prevent contaminated food entering the country.
"There's no immediate need to take special measures or additional measures to ensure the safety of the imports. I think we have to follow the events and keep an eye on what is happening. What is important is that we get more data on the situation on the ground in Japan," he said.
Japan's government has halted shipments of raw milk from Fukushima prefecture, and told a total of four prefectures near the stricken plant to hold shipments of spinach.
Leafy green vegetables, as well as milk, egg and meat products, are the biggest concern for possible contamination, the WHO said.
The new checks were welcomed by many shoppers.
"The radiation issue is fairly big. Also, I'm very worried that we will be affected by food imported from Japan at this point in time, that's why I think that many countries have started controlling and screening food products that are exported from Japan for radioactive contamination," said Beijing resident Cao Jiyang (pron: tsaow jee-yen).
Others were confident that the situation was already under control.
"We were never worried because China is now screening all sorts of food to make sure that they all fall within normal levels of radiation, so there is no need to worry about these things," said Li Rongen (pron: lee rong-en).
Japan has substantial exports of fruits, vegetables, dairy products and seafood, of which the country exports around 200,000 tonnes per annum, according to the WHO.
But at one popular Beijing market, stalls that usually stocked imported Japanese salmon said no fish from Japan were available at present.
In China, rumours last week of impending nuclear contamination prompted people to panic buy salt, in the belief it could protect them from radiation.
China jailed one man surnamed Chen for 10 days for spreading rumours online that the blast at the quake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant had contaminated Chinese waters off China's east coast, state television reported.
Chen, a computer company worker, had urged people to spread the word about the radiation to family and friends, stockpile salt, and not consume products from the sea for a year, reports said.
Chen, who was also fined 500 yuan (76.13 U.S. Dollars), said he had come across the information on the Internet and had passed it on without thinking.
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