Australia halts food imports from near Japan plant

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said a holding order had been put in place for Australia as a precaution on all foods originating from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi. Their major production is in milk, milk products, fresh fruit and vegetables, and both fresh and frozen seaweed and seafood.

The move follows a similar bar by the United States and the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, but does not apply to New Zealand. FSANZ, a bi-national government agency, said its decision was consistent with other countries.

"FSANZ has requested the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to institute a holding order for all foods of interest originating from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi," it said on its website.

"FSANZ remains of the view that the risk of Australian consumers being exposed to radionuclides in food imported from Japan is negligible." Milk and milk products and fresh produce are not imported into Australia, while Japanese seaweed and seafood represent only a small proportion (5.5 percent and 0.46 percent respectively) of Australia's total imports of these items.

While a ban is now in place, Australians have been told that Japanese food currently on the shelves is safe, given that it was imported before disaster hit the Pacific nation. Japan has already banned farm produce from areas near the crippled Fukushima power plant, which was hammered by a powerful quake and tsunami on March 11, triggering a series of explosions and fires at the nuclear facility.

Engineers are hoping to restart the cooling systems of all six reactors that were knocked out by the 14-metre (46-foot) tsunami, and have already reconnected the wider facility to the national power grid. But radiation fears rose again yesterday when Tokyo warned that radioactive iodine over twice the safe level for infants had been detected in its tap water.

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