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Tsai demands more hearings on imports

The Presidential Office said the Cabinet leaned toward not lifting the ban on food products from Fukushima, but conditionally allowing imports from the four other radiation-affected prefectures of Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba — which it vowed would be inspected batch by batch.

Food imports from the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba have been suspended for safety reasons since March 25, 2011, after a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The nuclear disaster was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The Cabinet held 10 public hearings across the country on the issue over the course of three days, from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14.

Sessions have ended in clashes as protesters voiced concern that radioactive food products would be allowed into Taiwan.

Councilors from Taoyuan City, Taichung City, Taitung County and Yunlin County launched the protests and New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) reiterated his determination toward ensuring food safety. Eleven cities, counties and special municipalities also formed an alliance against what they called “nuke food.”

Critics have decried the short notice that the government gave before holding the public hearings. A legislative committee had required the Cabinet to hold 10 public hearings — and to give the public advance notice of 10 days — before deliberating whether to ease the ban. Notice was reportedly given only a few days before the hearings.

Cabinet spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said the 10 public hearings were being held in accordance with a resolution reached by a legislative committee and that “it was regrettable” that some of the hearings had been aborted.

Plans to Phase Out Ban

The Cabinet has proposed a plan to phase out the import ban in two stages. In the first phase, the ban on all products from Fukushima would remain in place, while four other prefectures would continue to see a ban on the imports of four “high-risk products: drinking water, baby milk powder, tea products and wild-caught seafood.

Other imports must be accompanied by proof of radiation inspection and certificates of origin, the Cabinet said.

The Homemakers United Foundation reportedly said Taiwan’s current radiation assessment guidelines should be reevaluated, and urged for procedures to be made more transparent.

Secretary-General Lai Hsiao-fen (賴曉芬) said although the lift of the ban was a step toward free trade, but said that the move should not come at the expense of the health of Taiwanese people.