Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an Import Alert allowing officials to stop the entry of milk and produce originating from four Japanese prefectures affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor disasters.
The action followed an order by The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare to stop the sale of raw milk, spinach and kakina (a local leafy green vegetable) from Fukushima prefecture, and of spinach and kakina from Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma prefectures. According to CNN, vegetables from the Fukushima prefecture tested at levels drastically exceeding legal limits.
The U.S. import alert covers all milk and milk products and fresh vegetables and fruits produced or manufactured from the four Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma. The FDA will also flag all entries from Japan in order to determine whether they originated from the affected area, and will test all food and feed shipments from the area.
The FDA is careful to note that there is no risk to the U.S. food supply. It does not have concerns with the safety of any Japanese food products that have already reached the U.S. and are in distribution.
Foods imported from Japan make up less than four percent of all foods imported to the U.S. The most common Japanese food products imported include seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables.
Dairy products make up only one-tenth of one percent of all FDA-regulated products imported from Japan. Most dairy products in the U.S. market are produced domestically.
The FDA has a list of companies and manufacturing facilities in the affected area of the Fukishima nuclear reactor and will be paying special attention to imports from those locations. However, due to damage to the infrastructure in Japan, the FDA currently believes that export activity from the area is severely limited. It does not have any concerns regarding products that were already in transit when the explosion occurred at the reactor.
Although seafood is among the imports from Japan, the FDA believes that the great expanse of water in the Pacific Ocean will rapidly and effectively dilute any radioactive material, so that fish and seafood are likely to be unaffected. It will, nevertheless, evaluate and measure any contamination in fish presented for import into the U.S.
The FDA has stated that there is no public health threat in the U.S. related to radiation exposure, and that U.S. agencies are carefully monitoring any possibility for distribution of radiation to the United States. It notes, however, that theoretical models do not indicate that any significant amounts of radiation will reach the U.S. coast or affect U.S. fishing waters.