Products from Japan are currently subject to the EU’s most stringent limits on radioactive food contamination. Responding to a foodwatch enquiry, the European Commission recently confirmed that the maximum permitted levels initially established for a provisional period ending on 31 October 2012 would remain in force until 31 March 2014.
foodwatch had criticised the European limits for the radioactive contamination of foodstuffs as being inconsistent and excessively high. Although relatively high levels of radioactive contamination are still tolerated on the European markets for products from the Chernobyl region, the EU has set tighter regulatory limits for products from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station. The reason: it was impossible to explain to EU citizens that the Japanese government had set much more stringent limits on foodstuffs sold within its own borders than the EU had adopted for products imported from Japan.
Tight limits for Fukushima, looser limits for Chernobyl
Foods deemed unsuitable for sale in Japan could have easily been sold in Europe. In order to prevent this from happening, the EU lowered its limits for products imported from Japan to match Japan’s domestic limits: 10 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) for mineral water and similar drinks, 50 Bq/kg for milk, dairy products and foods for infants and young children and 100 Bq/kg for other food. The EU limits that apply to products from other countries, from 370 to 600 Bq/kg, are significantly more lax – in spite of the fact that even these higher limits are often exceeded by products from the regions affected by the Chernobyl disaster.
The provisional period initially established by the EU for the tighter Japanese limits was set to end on 31 October 2012. However, the Commission recently informed foodwatch that this period has now been extended: the regulations shall remain in force until 31 March 2014.