Global food scare widens from Japan nuclear plant

Saturday, March 26, 2011
By Paul Martin

AFP
TOKYO (AFP) – Countries across the world shunned Japanese food imports Thursday as radioactive steam leaked from a disaster-struck nuclear plant, straining nerves in Tokyo.

The grim toll of dead and missing from Japan’s monster quake and tsunami on March 11 topped 26,000, as hundreds of thousands remained huddled in evacuation shelters and fears grew in the megacity of Tokyo over water safety.

The damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant from the tectonic calamity and a series of explosions has stoked global anxiety. The United States and Hong Kong have already restricted Japanese food, and France wants the EU to do the same.

Russia ordered a halt to food imports from four prefectures — Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi — near the stricken plant 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo.

Moscow also placed in quarantine a Panama-flagged cargo ship that had passed near the plant and put its 19 crew under medical supervision after detecting radiation levels three times the norm in the engine room.

Australia banned produce from the area, including seaweed and seafood, milk, dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables.

It said, however, that Japanese food already on store shelves was safe, as it had shipped before the quake, and that “the risk of Australian consumers being exposed to radionuclides in food imported from Japan is negligible”.

Singapore also suspended imports of milk products and other foodstuffs from the same four prefectures and Canada implemented enhanced import controls on products from the quartet.

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