Taiwan insists on labeling rules for Japan’s food imports
Taiwan will enforce as scheduled a new directive that requires imported food from Japan be labeled with their place of origin and proof they are radiation free, Vice Health Minister Shiu Ming-neng said.
The directive has been issued and it’s not possible to rescind it, Hsu told reporters after meeting with three visiting Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry officials.
The Japanese officials asked during the meeting for Taiwan to remove the requirement and offer more assessment data related to radiation risks, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare.
But Hsu said the new directive will be enforced starting on May 15 as scheduled. He added that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is compiling scientific research and risk assessments on radiation safety.
Asked if the measure will affect trade, Hsu said the issue will be handled by the ministries of foreign and economic affairs.
The directive was made after Japanese food products from areas affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 were found last month sold in local supermarkets despite a ban.
The FDA imposed a ban on food products from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant melted down in March 2011 and contaminated parts of those regions with radioactive substances.
Taiwan’s authorities found that the food imports from those areas made their way into Taiwan after information on the packaging indicating their place of origin were covered up by Chinese-language stickers showing a different place of origin.
GMO Wheat not Allowed in
The Food and Drug Administra- tion dismissed concerns of genetically modified wheat grown in the United States entering Taiwan’s market, saying Taiwan bans imports of such wheat.
Taiwan allows genetically modified soybeans and corn but does not allow imports of genetically modified wheat, said Lee Wanchen, a section chief at the FDA.
During a recent check on packaged food products, the FDA did not find any genetically modified wheat on the local market, Lee added.
The statement was made as bakeries and wheat mills face doubts from local customers that wheat from the U.S. might be genetically modified and are receiving requests to purchase wheat from Japan and Canada.
Concerns about U.S. wheat first arose in 2013 when GMO wheat tested by U.S. seed company Monsanto Co. without approval from U.S. regulators contaminated a regular wheat farm in Oregon, prompting Japan to suspend some wheat imports.
The U. S. Wheat Associates’ Taiwan office dismissed the suspicions, saying the U.S. does not produce genetically modified wheat.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked to remove any genetically engineered wheat that remained at the site of Monsanto’s experiment, which is no longer used by the company, said Ron Lu, head of the association’s Taiwan office.
It has also conducted a check on wheat products in the country and found that none of them had been contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically engineered wheat, Lu said.
In addition, all U.S-grown wheat sold to Taiwan comes with certificates verifying that it is non-GMO, he said.
U.S.-sourced wheat accounts for 80 percent of Taiwan’s total wheat imports. Another 18 percent of its wheat imports come from Australia and the remaining 2 percent come from Canada.