Food from Fukushima will be freely available in the UK from Wednesday, weeks after Boris Johnson snacked on popcorn from the Japanese prefecture hit by a triple nuclear meltdown in March 2011.
Britain restricted Fukushima imports after the disaster, the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, but has gradually lifted them, even as other countries limit or ban produce from the region.
Johnson confirmed that the remaining restrictions would end on Wednesday in a meeting the previous day with the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, on the fringes of the G7 summit in Germany.
Johnson told Kishida that UK-Japan relations were going from “strength to strength”.
“Two great island democracies, united in our values, determined to stand up together against autocracies and the dangers of drifting backwards in the world, but also wanting to do more together on technology, on security, on trade, and of course I’m delighted that tomorrow – finally – we are able to have Fukushima-origin products all over the shops in the UK,” he said.
The supermarket chains Tesco and Waitrose have said they have no immediate plans to sell Fukushima produce. Instead, many of the items will be available at Japanese restaurants and specialist Japanese stores in England, Scotland and Wales.
The restrictions will remain in place in Northern Ireland, which is subject to European Union rules on food and drink from Fukushima and other prefectures affected by the accident 11 years ago.
The scrapping of the restrictions was made possible after the UK Food Standards Agency dropped a limit of 100 becquerels – a measure of radioactivity – per kilogram contained in Japanese food.
“Our risk assessment shows that removing the 100 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) maximum level of radiocaesium for food imported from Japan to the UK would result in a negligible increase in dose and any associated risk to UK consumers,” the FSA said in a report late last year.
The Fukushima prefectural government says that, post-disaster, its food safety standards are among the most stringent in the world. The government-set upper limit for radioactive cesium in ordinary foodstuffs, such as meat and vegetables, is 100 becquerels per kilogram, compared with 1,250Bq/kg in the EU and 1,200Bq/kg in the US.
The lifting of restrictions will affect 23 food products, such as mushrooms, which previously needed to carry proof that they had been tested for radioactive material, according to Nikkei Asia.
The Japanese government said it “welcomes the fact that the UK government reached this decision based on scientific evidence, as it will support the reconstruction of the affected areas”.
It added that it would “continue to work towards the early lifting of the remaining import restrictions in the EU and other countries and regions”. China, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Taiwan and several other countries still impose import restrictions.
Johnson first sampled Fukushima produce in 2017 when, as foreign secretary, he swigged a can of peach juice given to him by his Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, declaring it “Yum”.