Food safety and quality
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The situation in Japan

The current crisis in Japan -- triggered by the powerful earthquake of 11 March and subsequent tsunami -- is a complex emergency where the United Nations system is responding as and where requested by the Government of Japan.

FAO’s contribution to the response focuses on ensuring a comprehensive approach to the protection of agricultural production systems. This requires the application of good agricultural practices throughout the food chain, thereby tackling the twin challenges of food contamination by radioactive elements and the transfer of radionuclides from contaminated soils and water to crops and livestock.

Recent and on-going FAO activities related to the aftermath of the Japanese nuclear emergency have helped to ensure the timely dissemination of knowledge on radioactive contamination affecting food and agriculture, including the mechanisms of such contamination, information on food monitoring and food restrictions, the interpretation of standards (including Codex) relating to radiological protection of the public and the consideration of agricultural countermeasures and remediation strategies.

FAO’s assistance in emergency planning and response to nuclear and radiological emergencies is ensured through the Food Chain Crisis Management Framework (FCC). This framework was established by FAO to improve the Organization’s ability to address food chain emergencies in a holistic and inter-disciplinary manner, along with the need to strengthen internal and external partnerships, with a focus on the entire food chain, namely animal health, plant protection and food safety, but also fisheries, forestry. The harnessing of FAO’s expertise across these multidisciplinary fields is crucial for discussions on food and agriculture countermeasures in immediate, medium and long term phases following a nuclear accident.

The role of analytical laboratories, including the FAO/IAEA Agriculture and Biotechnology Laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria for training and technology transfer, are also critical in the examination of radionuclide contamination in food, plants, soil, water and other agricultural inputs in the identification of management processes and factors which will reduce hazards arising from radionuclide contamination.

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