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SINGAPORE (Reuters) - As worries grow about radiation from an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant in Japan entering the food chain, restaurants in Singapore are considering importing sushi, sashimi and other Japanese ingredients from elsewhere.
Customers are flocking as usual to the dozens of sushi bars and upscale Japanese restaurants in Singapore, which have a large number of Japanese expatriates and aficionados of the cuisine, but news that food imports from Japan will be tested for radiation has caused concern.
"At present we do not foresee an issue, but if the situation in Japan continues to drag on with no improvement, then in a couple of months we would have to look for alternative sources of supplies," said a spokeswoman for sushi chain Sakae Holdings.
South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Philippines have said they will test Japanese food imports for radiation. No cases of contaminated food have yet been reported.
Sakae Holdings said it imports about three-quarter of its supplies, including seafood and sauces, from Japan, but has suppliers in different parts of the country. The killer March 11 earthquake in Japan damaged nuclear reactors in the northeast, with reports of local radiation leaks at a plant 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.
"We will be looking for seafood either through local suppliers or countries like Australia," the spokeswoman said.
Japan Foods Holding, which also operates a chain of restaurants in Singapore, said most of its food imports came from the western and southern parts of Japan, which have not been affected.
But spokeswoman Keiko Nakamura said a shortage of power and gas in Japan might affect the cost of materials and transport charges.
In 2010, Japan exported about 170 billion yen worth of seafood, almost half of its total food exports. Asian nations took up about two-thirds of the shipments.
Anastasia Goh, a spokeswoman for Singapore restaurant chain Shin Kushiya, said there has been no drop in the number of customers partly due to public confidence in the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA), which monitors food safety in the city state.
"Everyone knows that the supplies into Singapore are very tightly controlled by AVA," she said, adding that Shin Kushiya is looking at getting supplies such as sashimi and noodles from other countries like the United States and Europe.
AVA said on Wednesday that so far laboratory results show no radioactive contamination has been detected in imported Japanese produce.
It said in a previously released statement that the impact of the earthquake on Singapore's food supply is minimal.
"In 2010, seafood imported from Japan constituted less than 2 percent of our total seafood imports by quantity. The import of other food products from Japan is negligible (less than 0.5 percent)."
Reporting by Eveline Danubrata; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan