EU may ease regulations on food from Japan's nuclear disaster region

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Vice Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura speaks during the Reuters Japan Investment Summit in Tokyo May 19, 2014. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

OSAKA (Reuters) - The European Union proposed on Thursday easing restrictions on imports of some food from Japanese regions hit by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Japanese officials said.

The proposal was made during a meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and top EU officials Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Junker in Osaka on the eve of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies.

The European Union restricted food imports from Fukushima and surrounding areas after the 2011 disaster at a nuclear power plant, caused by a tsunami following an earthquake. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

The regulations have been eased gradually in recent years.

Japanese officials said under the latest proposal, all food imports from three prefectures, soybeans from Fukushima, all marine products from some other prefectures and mushrooms in some areas would be exempt from an EU certification requirement.

EU member countries would decide on the proposal later this year, the officials said.

“Junker proposed further easing of restrictions on Japanese food imports based on detailed analysis of data provided by Japan,” Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters.

Abe welcomed the EU proposal and called for the early withdrawal of restrictions, Nishimura added.

The EU decision could encourage other countries to review their restrictions on Japanese food, analysts say.

Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Robert Birsel