Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

MEPs call for Fukushima food data to be made public

  • Rice harvest. Rice from Fukushima was under more stringent controls, but according to data analysed by the EU commission that is no longer necessary (Photo: Chris Oostyen)

The European Parliament's food safety committee adopted a text on Thursday (7 September), warning against the danger to public health of a proposed change in inspections of imported food from Japan, amid accusations of using "Trump-style alternative facts".

"Rather than protecting citizens, you are creating scares," said British Conservative MEP Julie Girling ahead of the vote.

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

"Consumers are perfectly protected," she said.

The European Commission, more diplomatically, also said the MEPs' fears were groundless.

But a majority of committee MEPs supported the resolution through show of hands.

The text is a response to a commission plan, which proposed taking rice and several fish species off the list of imports from Japan that need extra inspections.

The inspections were introduced as an emergency measure after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in March 2011.

According to the commission, the decision to scale back on checks is based on a thorough analysis of data on radioactive levels from samples.

But the parliament committee's resolution said "there are sufficient reasons to believe" that the change "could lead to an increase in exposure to radioactive contaminated food with a corresponding impact on human health".

It called on the commission to withdraw the proposal and come with a new one before the end of the year.

On Tuesday, centre-left MEP Christel Schaldemose told EUobserver that the EU should be "cautious" with importing food from Fukushima.

"We are completely relying on data from the Japanese side. … I wouldn't say we can't trust them, but it is worth checking ourselves," said the Danish MEP.

However, MEP Girling said that the text was full of "mistruths" and that she was "shocked" when she read it.

"It's verging on Trump-style alternative facts," said the member of the third-largest political group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).

As an example, Girling gave the complaints in the resolution that there was a lack of access to information.

The text said "while the changes in the draft proposal are based on a detailed analysis of the aforementioned data, neither this analysis, nor a link to the raw data, was provided in the draft proposal".

It added that it is "very difficult to verify whether the measures proposed are sufficient to protect the health of Union citizens".

But Girling pointed out that raw data is already public.

"If anybody wants to have the links to the website, we got them in two minutes," she said.

The commission has also offered to provide MEPs with the detailed analysis that was mentioned.

The British MEP noted the text wrongly implies there is a "conspiracy", and reminded her colleagues that they have often complained about the "alternative facts culture".

"It's deeply disappointing we seem to be indulging in it ourselves," she said.

No postponement

The largest group in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), had proposed postponing the vote, after an EU commission official had informed MEPs that the relevant committee of member states will not vote on the proposal in September.

"So if we postpone today, and vote in October in the plenary, that will still be in time," said MEP Peter Liese. "That would send a stronger signal than to rush it now."

Greens MEP Claude Turmes noted, however, that there was no time to lose.

"If we don't vote today we lose our democratic right to have a say on this issue," he said.

He said he believed that the relaxing of inspections is related to the negotiations for an EU-Japan free trade agreement, and referred to statements made by commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker last July at an EU-Japan summit.

Juncker had said he was "confident and [that he] will work in that direction that we will have, after the summer break, a further lifting of import measures".

To the Green Luxembourgish MEP, this is proof that the change in the inspections procedure was a bargaining chip in the trade talks.

Of the 60 MEPs, only 25 supported to postpone the vote, while 35 opposed it. In general, the support for adopting the text came from the left and the centre-left.

The parliament's text itself is non-binding in nature.

Analysis

Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue

Fico convinced the EU commission chief to take action in the perceived problem of discriminatory food practices, even though the evidence for the phenomenon is anecdotal.

Egg scare prompts review of EU alert systems

Health ministers' meeting called to discuss improvements to EU alert systems, but Danish and French authorities said pesticide levels in eggs too low to harm people.

News in Brief

  1. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  2. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  3. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law
  4. Open Society Foundation takes Hungary to court
  5. EU court asked to rule on halting Brexit
  6. EU threatens Switzerland on stock trading
  7. Italy's new basic wage restricted to Italians
  8. UK tycoon offers to create pro-Brexit party

Opinion

No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected

Following the 2030 renewable target of 32 percent, chair of the European Parliament's environment committee Adina Valean argues in order to reach our climate and energy goals, we need both public and private investment over the next decade and beyond.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  2. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  3. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  4. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  5. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  6. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  7. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  8. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us