Malaysia Doesn’t Import Live Marine Fish From Japan, Says Health Minister’s Advisor

Amid Fukushima fears, MOH and MAFS intensify Japanese food import monitoring; MOSTI conducts real-time water radioactivity surveillance for early detection.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 25 – The Ministry of Health (MOH) is closely monitoring food imports from Japan, including “high-risk” items, in response to concerns surrounding the Fukushima nuclear wastewater release.

Dr Kelvin Yii, special advisor to Health Minister Dr Zaliha Mustafa, said the government will not compromise on food safety, with the MOH, along with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS), taking vigilant measures to guarantee the safety of imported goods, especially from Japan.

“I understand some of the anxieties and even concerns raised by the public even to me and that is why in order to address this concern, the Ministry is committed to constantly monitoring national entry points and local markets to ensure food safety is guaranteed.

“While I respect the choice of the consumer whether to be cautious with their purchase, the ministries, including MOH and MAFS, are on high alert to ensure food supplied to Malaysia is safe for consumption,” Dr Yii said in a statement today.

The Bandar Kuching MP confirmed that Malaysia currently does not import live marine fish from Japan, as reported by the Department of Fisheries (DOF) Malaysia.

For other non-live fishery products from Japan, various ministries and authorities, including the Department of Malaysian Quarantine Inspection Services (MAQIS) and the Malaysian Fisheries Development Authority (LKIM), are maintaining rigorous checks on health certifications and radiation levels post-import to safeguard food safety.

In line with the government’s food safety commitment, “high-risk” food imports from Japan will undergo a Level 4 surveillance examination to screen for radioactive elements. 

This precautionary measure is being implemented as Japan prepares to release water from its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which faced a triple meltdown in the wake of the 2011 earthquake.

Dr Yii emphasised that similar measures were taken previously, such as monitoring Japanese food imports between May 2011 and April 2012 after the nuclear disaster. 

Samples were collected and analysed to ensure regulatory compliance, guided by the Food and Agriculture Organization’s General Standard for Contaminants and Toxins in Food and Feed.

In a statement on Wednesday, Health director-general Dr Muhammad Radzi Abu Hassan said that the MOH will be on alert when imposing inspections on high-risk food products imported from Japan.

The inspections, which would be for radioactive content, would be done at the international entry points into the country.

Dr Radzi said that the release of the treated wastewater is in accordance with Japanese safety standards and has received approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nation’s atomic watchdog, in July.

Dr Radzi noted that based on data from the health ministry, fish and fish-based products are among the highest products imported from Japan. This is followed by fruits, vegetables and processed food and beverages with a total value of RM880,115,437.

In another statement issued today, Science, Technology and Innovation Minister (MOSTI) Chang Lih Kang said the ministry, through the Department of Atomic Energy (Atom Malaysia) which acts as the nation’s atomic energy regulatory body, considers the IAEA as the primary reference for regulatory activities.

An IAEA report on July 4 concluded that the planned release of treated water into the sea from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was “consistent with international safety standards”, and that the impact of the release on people and the environment would be “negligible”.

“Through Atom Malaysia in collaboration with the European Union, MOSTI has installed the Gamma Spectrum Water Monitoring Station (GSWMS) to monitor any real-time increase in radioactivity levels in the country’s waters as an early warning detection,” Chang said.

“The data from this station is monitored 24/7 at the National Centre for Nuclear Response Malaysia (NCNRM) at the Atom Malaysia headquarters in Dengkil, Selangor.

“Based on current monitoring by Atom Malaysia, there is no observed increase in radioactivity levels in the country’s waters resulting from these activities at this time,” he added.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant commenced the discharge of treated and diluted radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean on Thursday, marking a contentious move aimed at facilitating the cleanup efforts following the reactor meltdowns 12 years ago.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida provided the final authorisation on Tuesday, instructing Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco), the operator, to prepare for the coastal release, the AP reported.

The water became contaminated after it was used to cool three nuclear reactors that melted down after Fukushima Daiichi was struck by a powerful tsunami in March 2011.

According to The Guardian, Tepco plans to carry out the release in controlled amounts, beginning with an initial discharge of 7,800 cubic metres over approximately 17 days. The utility intends to initiate the process “carefully and from a small amount”.

Critics of the discharge raise concerns about the limited long-term data available to definitively ascertain that tritium, a radioactive isotope, poses no health or environmental threat.

Tepco said that the first batch of discharged water would contain about 190 becquerels of tritium per litre, significantly below the World Health Organization’s drinking water limit of 10,000 becquerels per litre. The discharge will be capped at a maximum rate of 500,000 litres per day.

Japanese authorities affirm the safety of the water, which is being diluted with seawater prior to its release into the Pacific through an undersea tunnel.

The discharge process, projected to span 30 to 40 years, has sparked backlash from neighbouring nations and raised concerns among fishermen about the potential negative impact on their industry, as consumers display reluctance towards seafood sourced from the vicinity of Fukushima.

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