India U-turn on Japan food import ban

NEW DELHI, April 8, 2011 (AFP) - India has lifted a recent ban imposed on food imports from Japan but will demand "radiation free" certificates with Japanese shipments of produce, a government official said Friday.

Fearing radioactive contamination from Japan's nuclear disaster, India's health ministry on Tuesday recommended a three-month ban on food imports.

But the trade ministry has rejected the order, arguing that a blanket ban on food items imported from disaster-hit Japan is not necessary.

"It was decided that a blanket suspension of imported food items from Japan is not warranted as of now. We will monitor the situation every week," a senior official at the trade ministry told AFP.

"We will ask the Japanese authorities to provide a certificate to prove that the imported food items are radiation free," he said.

India, the first nation to impose a blanket ban, imports small quantities of fruit, vegetables and processed food from the Asian nation, which has been battling a nuclear crisis for the last three weeks.

Several countries, including China, Taiwan, Singapore and the United States, have banned shipments of produce from certain Japanese prefectures near the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

The plant's reactor cooling systems were knocked out by a tsunami, triggering explosions and fires.

The plant has sent radioactive material into the air, contaminating farm produce and drinking water. Radioactive water has seeped into the Pacific Ocean but officials stress there is no imminent health threat.

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