The claim: An image of an article purportedly published March 18, 2023 by Southern Chinese Daily News was circulating online. The article claims that the FDA issued an import ban on food products from Japan one week prior to the publication of the article, due to radioactive contamination.
- The article was published on page B2 of the March 18, 2023 issue of Southern Chinese Daily News, a Chinese-language newspaper based in Houston, U.S. Part of the policy information comes from the Import Alert #99-33 issued by the FDA.
- The Import Alert was issued right after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant incident. Responding to a food regulation list issued by the Japanese government, the FDA document lists foods from certain regions of Japan which will be impounded without examination. The FDA restriction had been updated and adjusted several times before being officially deactivated on Sept. 21, 2021.
Our verdict: The viral article does not show the recent U.S. import ban on food products from Japan but contents from a deactivated import restriction.
According to an article published March 18 (local time) on the TV Asahi website, some of the facilities for Fukushima nuclear plant water release had been approved by Japan’s nuclear watchdog the Nuclear Regulation Authority on March 15. The facilities started running on March 17.
HKBU Fact Check received a fact check request to verify an image of a newspaper clipping. The newspaper article claims that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had banned certain food products imported from Japan one week prior to the publication of the article due to radioactive contamination. The image shows that the article might be published on the page B2 of the March 18, 2023 issue of Southern Chinese Daily News.
A YouTube channel from Hong Kong interpreted the article and inferred that the policy was issued on or around March 11, 2023. The YouTube channel also appealed to the public to stop purchasing any Japanese food products. The video has gone viral—it had been viewed over 55,900 times, and had garnered more than 6,000 likes and 262 comments as of the publication of this article.
By searching the full page of the digital edition of Southern Chinese Daily News, it was confirmed that the article was published on page B2 of the March 18, 2023 issue. According to the official website of Southern Chinese Daily News, the newspaper was founded in Houston, U.S. and is the first Chinese-language newspaper in Houston.
The FDA did issue Import Alert #99-33 (IA), but it was issued right after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant incident. The version discovered by HKBU Fact Check was published July 18, 2016, which has been updated and revised multiple times.
According to the food regulation list published by the Japanese government, the FDA document lists foods from certain regions of Japan which will be impounded without examination. Meanwhile, it also states, “This import alert represents the Agency’s current guidance to FDA field personnel regarding the manufacturer(s) and/or products(s) at issue. It does not create or confer any rights for or on any person, and does not operate to bind FDA or the public.”
In September 2021, after an extensive assessment of Japan’s nuclear contamination control measures and after reviewing the results of 10 years of sampling food products from Japan, the FDA considered it a low risk for U.S. consumers to suffer from radioactive contaminated foods from Japan and therefore decided to deactivate Import Alert #99-33.
Moreover, Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety responded to similar rumors back in 2021. It states that the Import Alert 99-33 imposed by the FDA referred to the list of food products that were restricted from export by the Japanese government, and the import alert was changed according to the list updated by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan.
To sum up, the FDA did issue Import Alert #99-33 to guide FDA personnel to deal with food import from certain areas of Japan, but the restriction is not mandatory. The import alert was deactivated in 2021. The article circulating online contains information of a deactivated import alert and attached incorrect publication date to the regulation.
The viral article does not show the recent U.S. import ban on food products from Japan but contents from a deactivated import restriction.
- TV Asahi, “Part of the Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant’s treated water will be discharged and treating facilities start to operate,” March 18, 2023.
- YouTube, video, March 21, 2023.
- Southern Chinese Daily News, B2 page, March 18, 2023.
- Southern Chinese Daily News, Company Profile.
- FDA, “Import Alert 99-33,” July 18, 2016.
- FDA, “FDA Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Facility Incident,” Sept. 21, 2021.
- Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan, “The instructions associated with food by Director-General of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters,” March 30, 2023.
- Hong Kong’s Centre for Food Safety, “Latest update on Import Control on Japanese Food (as at 2021),” May 2, 2023.