TAIPEI: Taiwan Friday imposed new restrictions on food imported from Japan after hundreds of products were recalled over fake labels that disguised they came from areas affected by the country’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Taiwan banned Japanese food imports from five areas near Fukushima in March 2011 a few weeks after a devastating quake and tsunami triggered a nuclear meltdown at a power plant and radioactive particles were detected in some imports.
From Friday all food imports from Japan will be required to carry certificates to prove that they are not from the five banned areas while some will also need “radiation inspection certificates”, according to the Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.
In March Taiwanese authorities recalled hundreds of Japanese food items that were found with fake labels that hid their origins near the site of the nuclear disaster.
“The measures are necessary to… protect Taiwanese consumers’ health and welfare. The government and (food) companies should work together to provide safe food products,” the ministry said in a statement.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Friday urged Taipei to “lift or loosen the import restrictions from a scientific point of view”.
Farm minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Tokyo would consider taking certain actions, such as filing a suit with the World Trade Organization, “if no concrete development is observed.”
“It is a one-sided measure that is not based on scientific evidence. It is very disappointing,” he said.
Japanese food products are popular in Taiwan and the Apple Daily newspaper reported that stocks of some best-selling chocolates and pre-packaged french fries could run out in three months due to delays caused by the new requirements.
“The new regulations will have some impact on the cost and time to import Japanese food items. We will monitor the situation to determine if we should reduce the varieties of Japanese items we carry or raise prices,” said Knight Kao, a public relations manager for the supermarket chain RT-Mart.
Japan has pledged to jointly investigate the false labelling case with Taiwan and take preventative measures in the hope that the island will remove the restrictions.
“Falsified labels of product origins and food safety are different issues. We will continue to let Taiwanese people understand the safety of Japanese food and hope the Taiwanese authorities can further loosen its controls,” Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei said in a statement.
Taiwan and Japan maintain close trade ties even though Tokyo switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing in 1972.
Taiwan’s government has been stepping up foods safety measures after the island was rocked by a string of food scandals in recent years.