Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

MEPs to raise alarm on Fukushima food imports

  • Measuring radioactivity in Fukushima in 2012. (Photo: Tamaki Sono)

Members of the European Parliament's food safety committee will vote on a text on Thursday (7 September), raising the alarm over a European Commission proposal to partly relax controls on food imports from Fukushima, Japan, which suffered a nuclear disaster in 2011.

The draft resolution, seen by EUobserver, said "there are sufficient reasons to believe that this proposal could lead to an increase in exposure to radioactive contaminated food with a corresponding impact on human health".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The MEPs' text highlighted that, under the commission's proposal, rice and derived products from the Fukushima prefecture would no longer be subject to emergency inspections. It stressed that one of those products is "rice used in baby food and food for young children".

The text criticised that the commission's proposal did not justify why some foodstuffs were taken off the list.

However, the MEPs' concerns may already be outdated.

Cautious

Danish centre-left MEP Christel Schaldemose, one of the text's sponsors, spoke to EUobserver on Tuesday over the phone.

"We are completely relying on data from the Japanese side. … We need to be cautious," she said.

"I wouldn't say we can't trust them, but it is worth checking ourselves," said Schaldemose.

The resolution is an initiative by French Green MEP Michele Rivasi, who has been working on the text since June 2017.

In parallel, Rivasi and two of her Greens colleagues, also asked the commission for an explanation through a written question, on 14 July.

On 22 August, EU commissioner for food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis answered, telling MEPs that the proposed changes are based on publicly available data from the Japanese government.

Andriukaitis included a link to the raw data in a footnote, and said that if MEPs wanted to have a "detailed justification for the proposed changes", they can get them "by separate mail, upon request".

According to a commission source, Rivasi will receive this justification after having requested it.

Meanwhile, however, work on the resolution continued, and is now on the agenda for a vote on Thursday.

It received the support from five other MEPs, including two from the two largest political groups in the EU parliament.

Free trade agreement

The parliament's text, which is non-binding, also mentioned that Japanese exports of rice could increase under the EU-Japan free trade agreement (FTA), which the commission is expected to wrap up this year.

In a briefing which Green MEP Rivasi gave to journalists last July, according to a summary provided by her office, the French politician implied that the proposal on Fukushima was a bargaining chip in the negotiations for the FTA, and called it a "scandal".

The left-wing Greens are generally critical of FTAs.

Rivasi referred to a remark commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker made following an EU-Japan summit on 6 July.

"I would like to congratulate prime minister Abe on the remarkable progress Japan has made on making products from the Fukushima region safe, following the 2011 accident," Juncker had said.

"I am confident and I will work into that direction that we will have after the summer break a further lifting of import measures," he added.

A commission spokeswoman told EUobserver, however, that the proposed changes are based on a thorough analysis.

"The requirement for pre-testing before export is lifted only for food and feed from a prefecture where sufficient data demonstrate that food and feed is compliant in the last growing season with the strict maximum levels applicable in Japan," she said.

The emergency restrictions were put in place two weeks after the accident happened, and have already been amended five times.

The decision is taken by a so-called implementing act, which only involves the commission and member states, but not the EU parliament.

EU and Japan agree on free trade

Japanese prime minister and EU leaders to endorse major trade deal on Thursday in anti-protectionist message to Trump.

Opinion

Lessons from Fukushima for EU energy policy

Five years on from the Fukushima disaster, Japan, the UK, and other EU states should commemorate victims by opting for safe and renewable energy over the genie's bottle of nuclear power.

Opinion

Fukushima one year on - lessons learnt?

Almost one year after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, killing thousands and causing a nuclear disaster, the European-level response has been to let the nuclear industry continue with business as usual, writes Rebecca Harms.

MEPs call for Fukushima food data to be made public

A majority of the parliament's food safety committee adopted a text that warned of an increased risk of "radioactive contaminated food" from Japan, but one MEP said the text was full of "alternative facts".

News in Brief

  1. British PM to batter against EU wall on Brexit
  2. Hungary and Slovakia break EU line on Jerusalem
  3. Germany and France to overhaul EU competition law
  4. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  5. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  6. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  7. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  8. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad

Stakeholder

COP24 Nordic Pavilion: sharing climate solutions with the world

The Nordic Pavilion at COP24 is dedicated to dialogue – TalaNordic – about key themes regarding the transition to a low-carbon society, such as energy, transport, urban futures, the circular economy and green financing.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  2. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  3. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  4. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  5. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  6. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  7. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  8. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us