Speech at Panel on Food Safety and Environmental Hygiene

III. Impact of the discharge of wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean on food safety and import control on Japanese food

Testing and control on imported Japanese food products

Members expressed great concern about the potential impacts of the discharge plan on marine ecology, the food chain and even food safety. Noting that the Administration planned to step up testing on imported Japanese food products, members requested the Administration to (a) provide details such as implementation timetable, target testing volume and estimated expenditure and (b) consider whether the testing scope would be extended to processed food products imported from Japan (e.g. canned food and snacks) to further ensure food safety in Hong Kong. Members also suggested that the HKSAR Government should timely strengthen the testing on food products imported from neighboring areas of Japan.

The Administration responded that the Centre for Food Safety (“CFS”) under the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (“FEHD”) had planned to step up the testing on imported Japanese food products (especially increasing testing on aquatic products and the volume of testing for specific radioactive substances). The exact rates of increase in testing volume and proportion would depend on the coverage of the new measures and the import volume of Japanese food products. It was worth noting that the proportion of testing conducted on imported Japanese aquatic products had increased from 11% in 2020 to 37% in 2022. Furthermore, the Government Laboratory had procured necessary equipment (involving a government expenditure of several million dollars) and was preparing for stepping up testing, including formulating testing methods for different radionuclides with reference to the relevant Codex Alimentarius Commission (“Codex”) guidelines. The Government Laboratory expected to complete the relevant preparatory work by April 2023, and testing would then be enhanced progressively.

The Administration further said that the HKSAR Government always attached great importance to food safety. After the Fukushima nuclear incident, the HKSAR Government had imposed import control measures on Japanese food products. Currently, all vegetables, fruits, milk, milk beverages and dried milk from the Fukushima Prefecture were prohibited from importing into Hong Kong, and the import of such food products from the four prefectures near Fukushima (namely Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma) had to be accompanied by radiation certificates issued by the Japanese authorities and exporter certificates. Moreover, the import of all chilled or frozen game, meat and poultry, poultry eggs, as well as all live, chilled or frozen aquatic products from the aforesaid five prefectures had to be accompanied by radiation certificates issued by the Japanese authorities; otherwise, such food products were prohibited from importing into Hong Kong. As for other food products (including processed food products) imported from Japan, CFS would continue to take samples for testing. From March 2011 to January 2023, CFS tested a total of more than 770 000 samples of imported Japanese food products (including 150 000 samples from the five affected prefectures), and the radiation levels of all the food samples had not exceeded the Codex’s guideline levels.

In response to members’ suggestion of mandating all Japanese food products to label the food products’ prefecture of origin on the packaging, the Administration advised that under the existing mechanism, CFS could learn of the food products’ prefectures of origin from radiation certificates issued by the Japanese authorities and other relevant documents, and, if necessary, CFS might request importers to provide necessary information for food source tracing. CFS would remain committed to ensuring food safety in Hong Kong.