Boris Johnson and Fumio Kishida share ‘Fukushima popcorn’ as radioactive food rules scrapped

Boris Johnson and Fumio Kishida share ‘Fukushima popcorn’ as radioactive food rules scrapped

Fish and vegetables grown near the old Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan can be freely sold in Britain after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) scrapped a rule on radioactivity levels in produce.

Controls on a wider range of products, including baby food and breakfast cereals, were lifted several years ago but the FSA maintained tight restrictions on 23 farm products, including bamboo shoot and bracken.

After consulting on the issue, the agency decided to remove a threshold that limits Japanese imports that contain more than 100 becquerels, a measure of radioactivity, per kilogram.

The FSA said: “Our risk assessment shows that removing the 100 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) maximum level of radiocaesium for food imported from Japan to the UK would result in a negligible increase in dose and any associated risk to UK consumers. Without specific import controls, the emphasis would fall on food businesses to ensure food is safe under General Food Law. However, we would not recommend businesses need to take any precautions beyond their normal due diligence.”

Tesco and Waitrose said they had no immediate plans to introduce the items in store. They are already available in limited quantities at some specialist Japanese grocers.

Boris Johnson and the Japanese leader Fumio Kishida shared some popcorn from the region to mark the lifting of all of the remaining restrictions. 

New defence deal 

Meeting in London, the leaders confirmed a new defence agreement, which will allow British and Japanese forces to deploy together to carry out training, joint exercises and disaster relief activities.

Downing Street said that the Prime Minister “was pleased Great Britain would soon lift the remaining restrictions on Fukushima”.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster was the most severe nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. In 2011, active reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma shut down their fission reactions when the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami caused the power supply to fail. The Japanese government has enforced a strict regime on food from the Fukushima prefecture since the accident.

Japanese leaders have been calling on governments to lift all remaining bans. In 2019, the EU relaxed its rules as part of a wide-ranging trade deal. Brussels scrapped the need for radiation inspection certificates, apart from for certain fish products, mushrooms and wild vegetables. In exchange, the EU was allowed to sell limitless quantities of reduced tariff French champagne, foie gras, cognac, and wine in Japan. Britain agreed to mirror the food regulations during the Brexit transition period.

Downing Street said the leaders also discussed the recent ballistic missile launch by North Korea. “The Prime Minister condemned the provocative actions and said the UK stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Japan and our Indo-Pacific allies,” a spokesperson said.

“There is direct read-across from the actions of autocratic, coercive powers in Europe to what may happen in East Asia,” Mr Johnson said. “That’s why we want to work more closely together.”

The Prime Minister added: “As two great island democracies, and the third and fifth largest economies in the world, the UK and Japan are focused on driving growth, creating highly skilled jobs and ensuring we remain technology superpowers.

“The visit of Prime Minister Kishida will accelerate our close defence relationship and build on our trade partnership to boost major infrastructure projects across the country – supporting our levelling up agenda.”

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Last Update: Thu, 05 May 22 15:50:07