Most New York Eateries Confident in Japan Food Imports

New York restaurants and those who import food from Japan said they continue to trust federal safety assessments of seafood and other imports from the country.

Food imports from Japan make up less than four percent of all U.S. food imports, according to radiation safety information on the FDA's website, but some in the food industry are still taking precautions even though the agency said "little or no products" are being imported from the tsunami battered region.

Reiko Yo Alexander, the owner of En Japanese Brasserie on Hudson Street that has hosted fundraisers for Japan, said that two weeks ago she stopped importing most types of fish from Japan, which is a small percentage of the eatery’s imports.

"We actually changed the menu,” she said, adding many customers were asking where the seafood was from, "and we indicated where the fish are from for each item."

She still offers dried shrimp and yellow tail, which is imported frozen from the country.

Osamu Tada, the manager at Sunrise Mart in Midtown, said more than half of the market's products are from Japan are mostly dry products like cookies, crackers and candies. Fresh foods are imported from places in the U.S., including California, New Jersey, and upstate New York. His customer base, he said, has not changed since the disaster.

Andrew Rigie, with the New York Restaurant Association, said few local Japanese food businesses have expressed concerns about the safety of imports from the country, although several have asked for information about how to better inform their customers about federal inspections.

"My understanding is there's a very deep supply of this frozen food and frozen fish that was sourced pre-earthquake and tsunami, so that's another reason why people should not be concerned," he said.

Yuji Haraguchi, who works in marketing for the wholesale seafood distributor True World Foods,  said his business supplies more than 200 restaurants in the New York City area. So far, he said, he hasn’t seen a drop in his business, which imports a percentage of its seafood from Japan.

"I have more chefs than I expected who are trying to buy more seafood from Japan and trying to help the economy there," he said.

The FDA has an "Import Alert" in place for milk products, fruit and vegetables from the areas of Japan affected by the disaster. As for seafood, the FDA said ocean water "rapidly and effectively dilutes radioactive material, so fish and seafood are unlikely to be affected" — and added that federal officials continue to "closely monitor" the situation.