Japan advisory - overview of food monitoring in australia

All foods from Japan tested by ARPANSA were found to be below guideline levels for sale and consumption in Australia.

PDF iconJapan advisory - overview of food monitoring in Australia

Why was a food monitoring program established?

Following the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP accident, a program to monitor food imported from Japan was implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DoA). This was a precautionary measure to provide assurance that foods imported from Japan were safe for Australian consumers. The program was informed by technical advice from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and ARPANSA.

Limits and guidance for contaminated foods in Australia following the Fukushima Dai‑ichi NPP accident

For countries importing foodstuffs after a major radiological or nuclear emergency has occurred, the Codex Alimentarius International Food Standards guideline levels are applied for one year after the accident. The Codex guideline levels apply to food when they are ready for consumption. In 2012 ARPANSA assessed that the levels in the Codex guideline remained appropriate to protect the Australian public.

Which foods were tested?

In 2011 all food types imported from contaminated areas were part of the DoA program, including noodles, rice, flour, fruit, vegetables, tea leaves and seafood (including edible seaweeds). As more information became available the DoA program was modified to target the foods that were most likely to be contaminated (tea, mushrooms and seafood).

Over 1000 imported food samples from Japan were tested by ARPANSA between March 2011 and January 2014.

Results from the DoA monitoring program

  • No samples exceeded the Codex guideline level.
  • Iodine-131 was not detected in any samples.
  • Radioactive caesium was detected in four mushroom samples, however the types of caesium detected suggests that this was not contamination from the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP accident.
  • Radioactive caesium was detected in some tea leaf samples but was well below the Codex guideline level.
  • No fish or seaweed samples have contained radioactive caesium above the detection limit.

Why did the program cease in 2014?

The food imported from Japan represents less than one percent of the food imported into Australia. All foods tested were well below the Codex guideline level of 1000 Bq/kg.

The extent of the radionuclide contamination in Japan is now better understood and measures are in place in Japan to control the sale and export of contaminated foods. These measures are considered to be effective based on results from the Australian food monitoring program.

ARPANSA, the Department of Agriculture and Food Standards Australia and New Zealand will continue to monitor the situation in Japan.

Additional information

Further details of the food sampling undertaken by ARPANSA are available in Chapter 4 of the ARPANSA Technical Report Assessment of the Impact on Australia from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident.

Information on the testing of imported food is available from the Department of Agriculture website (www.agriculture.gov.au).