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Ombudsman asks Commission to clarify permitted food contamination levels after Fukushima nuclear accident

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Press release no. 12/2011

30 May 2011

Radioactivity
Author: European Ombudsman
Copyright: European Union

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has asked the European Commission to provide citizen-friendly information about the maximum permitted levels of radioactive contamination of foodstuffs in the EU before and after the Fukushima accident in Japan. The Ombudsman’s action follows several complaints from citizens suggesting a lack of information concerning the changes made to the maximum levels. The Ombudsman has asked the Commission to reply by 30 June 2011.

Citizens complain about lack of information concerning contamination levels

In March 2011, an earthquake damaged the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, which led to increased radioactive contamination in the surrounding area.

As a consequence, the European Commission activated its emergency mechanisms on the basis of legislation that was introduced after the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986. This legislation includes maximum permitted levels of radioactive contamination of foodstuffs in case of an accident, which was applied to food imported from Japan to the EU. However, in April 2011, the Commission then decreased the maximum permitted levels in line with the action levels applied in Japan.

The Commission provided information on its website regarding the relevant legislation leading to the increase and decrease of the maximum permitted levels. However, the Ombudsman has received several complaints from citizens suggesting that there is a lack of comparative information about the changes made to the maximum permitted levels after the Fukushima accident.

The Ombudsman has, therefore, asked the Commission to provide citizen-friendly information about the maximum permitted levels of radioactive contamination of foodstuffs in the EU before and after the Fukushima accident.

For more information, see the Ombudsman's "opened cases" section on his website: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/cases/caseopened.faces/en/10431/html.bookmark

The Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the EU institutions, agencies and bodies. Any EU citizen, resident, or an enterprise or association in the EU, can lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman's powers include the right to inspect EU documents, call officials to testify, and to open strategic inquiries on her own initiative. For more information: www.ombudsman.europa.eu

For press inquiries: Ms Gundi Gadesmann, Head of Communication, tel.: +32 2 284 26 09, Twitter: @EUombudsman