Chinese consumers have said they will avoid serving or eating Japanese seafood over safety concerns once Japan starts releasing radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government on Wednesday announced it would ban seafood imports from 10 Japanese prefectures once Japan began releasing contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean, due to concerns over food safety and public health. Hong Kong is the second-largest importer of Japanese agricultural and fishery products after the Chinese mainland.
On July 7, the General Administration of Customs said that Japan's plan to discharge contaminated wastewater into the sea was a matter of global concern. It raised the issue of safety of Chinese consumers who bought seafood imported from Japan.
It imposed an import ban on aquatic products from 10 Japanese cities or prefectures, including Tokyo and Fukushima. Food imports from other parts of Japan must now all go through reviews and checks. Customs authorities remain vigilant and responsive in light of the developments to ensure food safety for Chinese customers, the GAC said.
According to a 2022 finding by Chinese market consultancy firm iiMedia Research, 39.58 percent of respondents have Japanese cuisine once every two or three weeks. In light of the nuclear wastewater plan, Chinese consumers and business owners are worried about the safety of the seafood being served in Japanese restaurants.
"I will not eat seafood imported from offshore Japan anymore," said a Shanghai-based data engineer surnamed Wang. The 42-year-old has been a fan of Japanese cuisine since 2000 and would eat Japanese food once a month.
"If I have other options, I will choose seafood that does not come from the Pacific Ocean," he added.
Wang Qian, a financial employee in Beijing, said she has been to about 20 Japanese restaurants so far.
"Normally, I would not pay attention to where the seafood came from. But now I will try not to choose seafood from Japan," she said. "Radioactive material poses a threat to human health and marine ecology."
She said that Japan should use other methods to solve the problem, rather than discharging radioactive wastewater into the ocean.
In addition to food safety, some people are worried about using cosmetic products made in Japan.
A blogger surnamed Chen from Shandong province said she often eats Japanese food with her friends. "Keeping the discharge of nuclear wastewater in mind, I will not eat seafood as frequently as before. I will also ask the chef about the origin of the food. I will no longer use Japanese cosmetic and skin care products as well," she said.
Japanese restaurants, meanwhile, have found their own way to keep the customers coming. Most now source their ingredients from places other than Japan. "In many Japanese restaurants here, salmon is imported from Norway, sweet shrimp is imported from the Arctic and a lot of the seafood comes from Dalian, the capital city of Liaoning province," Chen added.
An employee of Japanese restaurant Jiubanwu, in Beijing, who did not want to be named, told China Daily that their fish and shrimp are imported from Russia, France and other countries. "We have not been buying seafood from Japan since April," she said.
In a global online survey conducted by CGTN in July, 94.85 percent of respondents condemned Japan's act of releasing radioactive wastewater into the sea as "extremely irresponsible". In the survey, 89.69 percent of respondents believed that the disposal of radioactive wastewater was not Japan's "private matter" but a common concern of its neighbors, Pacific Island countries and even the whole world.