South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines will test Japanese food imports for radiation and other countries may also step up monitoring as the quake-hit superpower tries to contain a nuclear crisis.
“As far as radiation is concerned, I think the [riskiest] articles are fresh products — perhaps dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables,” York Chow, Hong Kong’s food and health secretary, said on Monday.
“We are monitoring the situation and also checking at importation venues to ascertain that they have not been affected,” the official added.
Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said it would test imports from Japan, particularly fresh produce.
South Korea’s Food and Drug Administration said it would test fresh agricultural and forest products for radiation, though it was not a big buyer of such items from Japan.
Officials said testing of seafood was also being considered.
Japan’s food exports are a small part of its trade, equivalent to about 0.15 percent of gross domestic product, and go mostly to Asian nations.
Thailand’s public health ministry said it had no plans yet for extra monitoring of imports from Japan, but Malaysia said it would step up checks on food shipments.
“The health ministry is closely monitoring the situation and will take precautionary measures by monitoring food imports from Japan,” said Liow Tiong Lai, Malaysia’s health minister.
According to government data in 2009, 2.6 million people were engaged in agriculture in Japan — about 4 percent of a 65.9 million-strong work force. Farm output accounted for about 1 percent of GDP.
In the Philippines, text messages circulated saying the country was at danger from the radiation leaks from the Fukushima power plant and warned people to stay indoors.
The government said the messages were untrue and alarming. Manila is about 3,000 kilometers south of Tokyo.
Fe Medina, the spokeswoman for the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, said the country’s chances of being affected by Japan’s nuclear incident was “really remote.”
She said wind patterns would push any radiation leak away from the Philippines, but the government would continue to monitor the direction.
As a precaution, food imports from Japan would be checked for radiation, according to presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang. But Medina said imports would not be stopped.
“Right now, we are not yet recommending a ban on any food products from Japan and we don’t think it’s necessary,” Medina said.