Tuesday

26th Oct 2021

EU plans tougher radiation limits for Japanese food

The European Union is preparing to tighten radiation limits on Japanese food and animal feed imports, as low-level radioactive seawater used for cooling reactors at the crisis-stricken Fukushima plant is returned to the sea.

The lower permissible thresholds will bring the EU into line with tougher domestic limits in Japan, and are likely to be agreed by member states this Friday (8 April).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • A Japanese fish market. The EU imports some seafood products from Japan (Photo: Mike Lee)

Speaking to MEPs in Strasbourg on Tuesday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso described the measures as "purely precautionary".

"The commission believes it would be correct to amend the present levels in force since March 25 as an additional safeguard measure," Barroso told the euro-deputies. He noted that Europe's current thresholds were agreed following Ukraine's 1986 nuclear accident at Chernobyl.

"We have decided that on a transitional basis we are going to implement the standards of Japan (where) the levels permitted are lower," he explained.

The tougher limits would see caesium-134 and caesium-137 thresholds reduced from 1,250 becquerels per kilogramme at present to 500 becquerels per kilogramme.

The new limit for iodine-131 would be 2,000 becquerels per kilogramme and for strontium-90 it would be 750 becquerels per kilogramme, a spokesman for European consumer affairs commissioner John Dalli told AFP.

"I should like to underline here that all the checks carried out up to now by member states... demonstrate negligible levels of radioactivity which are significantly below current Japanese and European standards," underlined Barroso.

Seafood products make up a significant portion of the EU's relatively small level of imports from Japan, although the EU-27 sources over 99 percent of its seafood imports from other countries.

"We are very concerned about the spread of radioactivity in the sea waters," EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki told members of parliament's fisheries committee on Monday, amid reports of contaminated water entering the sea near the Fukushima plant.

Tokyo Electric Power which runs the plant announced this week that it still needs to pump some 11,500 tonnes of low-level radioactive seawater into the sea because of a lack of storage space.

In a sign of the long-lasting contamination effects, environmental group Greenpeace on Sunday said milk and other staples such as mushrooms and berries are still contaminated in parts of Ukraine, 25 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Roughly a week ago, air monitoring stations in several EU member states announced that "the minutest" levels of radioactive iodine had been detected in the air. Health experts have stressed however that both air and sea pollution levels are too weak to pose a threat to human health.

As well as discussing the ongoing Japanese crisis, MEPs sitting in plenary on Tuesday were also critical of plant decommissioning efforts in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia.

Delays, lack of coordination and too much money going to unrelated energy projects, were among the criticisms highlighted by MEPs in a resolution.

Opinion

How to break the political deadlock on migration

We propose a mandatory solidarity mechanism that allows for flexible options. Every member state will have to contribute in one way or another - through either relocation, return sponsorship or capacity-building measures, writes EPP rapporteur Tomas Tobé MEP.

Podcast

Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action

In 2009 Connie Hedegaard presided over the Copenhagen climate conference that ended in rancour - and left Europe on the sidelines. Hedegaard went on to become the first European commissioner for climate action.

No place for Polish 'war' rhetoric, Commission says

The EU Commission says war rhetoric has no place between member states, following an interview by Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who warned the Brussels executive not to "start the third world war" by withholding EU funds.

No place for Polish 'war' rhetoric, Commission says

The EU Commission says war rhetoric has no place between member states, following an interview by Poland's prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who warned the Brussels executive not to "start the third world war" by withholding EU funds.

Podcast

Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action

In 2009 Connie Hedegaard presided over the Copenhagen climate conference that ended in rancour - and left Europe on the sidelines. Hedegaard went on to become the first European commissioner for climate action.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. How to break the political deadlock on migration
  2. Hedegaard on the hazards of stalling climate action
  3. Belarus exiles in EU fear regime-linked murderers
  4. No place for Polish 'war' rhetoric, Commission says
  5. Nine countries oppose EU gas market reform
  6. EU-UK impasse on top court in post-Brexit customs talks
  7. Erdoğan orders out US and EU ambassadors
  8. EU banks play 'major role' in deforestation, report finds

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us