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Federal agencies exercise caution with Japanese food imports


Roger Meissen
Senior Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-884-8696

Published: Friday, March 25, 2011

Story source:

Ellen R. Schuster, 573-882-1933

Podcast by Debbie Johnson

COLUMBIA, Mo.– U.S. agencies are playing it safe with food imports from areas near the Japanese nuclear reactors damaged in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

On March 22, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) outlined efforts to protect Americans from tainted food.

“In truth, there are a very small percentage of products that could be affected that come into the United States from Japan,” said Ellen Schuster, a nutrition specialist with University of Missouri Extension. “The FDA says that it’s stopping the import of dairy products and produce from the parts of Japan where there is radiation from the damaged nuclear plants.”

Less than 4 percent of overall U.S. imports and less than 2 percent of our seafood come from Japan.

The FDA controls inspection of more than 80 percent of the food supply, from seafood to produce and dairy products.

For additional safety, the FDA is scanning any food products that come into the U.S. specifically from the four Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma. These areas surround the damaged nuclear plants; tests will determine whether products are free of radioactive contamination.

Schuster said it’s important that U.S. authorities take a careful approach and not feed into unfounded fears. That’s why screening is a better approach than banning all imports.

“Other products that come into the U.S. from Japan like seafood, snack foods, processed fruits and vegetables will be screened for radiation,” Schuster said. “The FDA will monitor foods coming in, will sample foods and actually have a list of food manufacturers from the affected region, so they know when food coming to our ports should receive special attention.”

The USDA said that the U.S. currently imports no beef or poultry from Japan and has not for more than a year. NOAA said it’s highly unlikely that seafood will be affected because the great amount of water in the Pacific Ocean will diffuse and reduce any radioactive contaminants to a very low concentration, but the FDA still plans to monitor it.

For more information:

-Questions about radiation and food (FDA):

-Information on radiation safety (USDA):