Chile has called the Japanese ambassador in Santiago to express concern over Tokyo's decision to suspend imports of Chilean pork allegedly for sanitary reasons, according to reports in the Chilean media.
A sanitary delegation headed by the director of Chile's Veterinary Services, Francisco Bahamontes and representatives from the private sector are expected this week in Tokyo. Last Friday ambassador Wataru Hayashi was called to Chilean Foreign Affairs and delivered an "aide memoir", which expresses the Chilean government surprise at such extreme measure. "It's a very important and sensitive issue for Chile and the President Michelle Bachelet administration" said the head of Foreign Policy, ambassador Juan Pablo Lara. Japan argued that shipments were temporarily suspended following the Korean government ban on Chilean pork imports because in one package dioxin had been detected. "However this was not the case for Japan". Dioxin is linked to chlorine and can be harmful for human health. "Since we have standing agreements and talks are very fluid among sanitary officials from both countries we feel the determination is a bit too extreme", added Lara. Pork is a growing industry in Chile and Japan is the country's third most important market having acquired last year 33% of total production involving a turnover of 127 million US dollars. In March 2007 Japan and Chile signed a free trade agreement which cut Japanese import tariffs (70%) on Chilean imports, including pork. South Korea's national quarantine service two weeks ago ordered a recall of Chilean pork that may have been contaminated with dioxin after finding a package with a higher than permitted level of the toxic compound. According to Korean sanitary officials detailed tests conducted on a package containing 25.9 tons of meat from a Chilean exporter showed 2.3-15 picograms of the cancer- causing substance in the fat, which surpasses the 2-picogram limit set by Seoul. One picogram is equivalent to one trillionth of a gram. The service said the package is the second from the designated exporter that has been found to have shipped dioxin- contaminated pork. The official said that because there is a risk that other packages from the repeat-offender could be tainted, the quarantine service ordered the local importer to destroy all 78.8 tons of pork that were brought into the country along with the contaminated package. The Agriculture Ministry has started detailed inspections of all pork shipments from Chile to make certain that tainted meat does not reach consumers. Chile is the second-largest exporter of pork to South Korea after the United States.