As Taiwan begins to welcome imports from Fukushima and the surrounding areas, many are still a bit apprehensive about screening processes to ensure that no contaminated foods enter the country. Those with concerns about food safety sit on both sides of the political aisle.
One such individual is Chen Jiau-hua (陳椒華). Chen is a New Power Party (NPP) legislator and the chairperson of the party, she is also a well-known environmentalist. Today Chen held a press conference to call for more rigorous testing on Fukushima food imports. She raised a few concerns about the ways foods may slip through the screening process undetected.
Fist she mentioned that she wants the government to screen for strontium-90, just as they do for cesium and iodine. Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope that, if ingested, often leaches into bones and bone marrow, which can lead to cancer.
Chen also pointed out that while every batch of food from Fukushima is tested, it is only a small percentage, thus some tainted food could find its way across the border and onto Taiwanese plates. Chen also warned that while foods imported directly from Fukushima will be batch tested and labeled, if raw food products from Fukushima are sent to other places in Japan to make processed foods, they may not be marked as such and thus could perhaps not be properly vetted. Therefore, Chen has called for labels carrying the origin of the materials used to make foods as well.
While many Taiwanese are starting to warm up to the idea of opening up food imports from Fukushima, according to recent polling, it is still majority unpopular, though this figure is much closer to parity than even a few years before. It is likely that this policy shift by the government is in order to build better relations with Japan and likely also part of the Tsai administration’s bid to join the CPTPP. Though with Taiwan’s switch to allow these imports, the only nation in the world still banning them will be China.
Whether the government takes up Chen’s suggestions, it is still the responsibility of Taiwan’s FDA to protect the health of all people in the country. With the public’s heavy focus on food, they will surely be keeping a close eye on these imports. If any issues arise because of oversight or a lackadaisical attitudes, the public will likely punish the party in power.