FDA officials announced earlier this week that some food products from Japan, mainly dairy, would not be allowed to enter the U.S. amidst the nuclear crisis rattling the nation as a result of the March 11th earthquake.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in northern Japan has been leaking radiation after damage sustained from the 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami. Radioactive cesium and iodine have been showing up in high levels in certain Japanese food products.
Japanese fish is still currently approved for sale in the U.S. because most is sourced off-shore, a safe distance from the nuclear disaster, but other common imports such as snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables, may be halted indefinitely.
Japanese imports represent less than 4 percent of the food sold in America, posing little risk of triggering any food shortage crisis. The effects are more damaging to the Japanese economy, as the nation is already facing hundreds of billions of dollars in damages from the quake. Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia have also banned Japanese imports.
There has been a swell of bulk food buying within Japanese supermarkets as locals are stocking up on safe foods fearing contamination from any foods produced in the wake of the meltdown. Japanese officials have also warned against eating any leafy green vegetables grown near the nuclear reactor site, and water safety is a growing concern as iodine-131 levels in Tokyo’s tap water rose to 210 Becquerels per kilogram (2.2 pounds). The recommended limit is 300 for adults and 100 for infants. The level has since fallen to 79 at the same sampling site, authorities said.
As the nuclear reactors still are not yet under control, more workers were evacuated earlier this week from one of the sites as several men suffered radiation burns. To date, the highest radiation levels reported at the plant are 500 millisieverts per hour. The maximum dosage at that level would be reached in 30 minutes for anyone exposed.
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