In the wake of the destruction of the nuclear plant in Japan, there is growing concern over how our food supply might be affected. People are worried about unknowingly eating dangerous amounts of radiation in foods coming from Japan, and they have every justification in their concerns. About 4% of food in our country comes from Japan and farms up to 70 miles away from the plant have recently detected dangerous levels of radiation in spinach and milk. The same areas are also commonly known for their production of melons, rice, and peaches, so it is quite possible that contamination from the plant could potentially affect other food supplies, as well.
High levels of radiation can lead to cancer, and also may cause many other symptoms, including: nausea and vomiting, spontaneous bleeding, bloody diarrhea, blistering skin, hair loss, severe fatigue, mouth ulcers, and random infections.
With so many terrifying possibilities that could result from exposure to radiation, it is no wonder that people are currently questioning more than ever if their food is safe. Many restaurants have stopped using Japanese fish and produce, and some will not even serve spinach of any kind because they don’t want their customers to wonder if there might possibly be some infected spinach in the dish they are eating.
While it is justified that people are concerned about the radiation and want to feel comfortable with whatever they are eating, it seems that there may not actually be much to worry about (at least for us here in the US).
Trace amounts of radiation have been found in milk in Arizona, California, and Washington, but experts say those levels would need to be about 5000 times higher than they are to be considered dangerous. Chances of contamination reaching American soil are extremely low, but many American farmers are, nonetheless, being careful and testing their soil for radiation. Many American restaurants are buying radiation detectors to make sure their food is safe, as well. Many restaurants and grocery stores have stopped selling Japanese fish and produce altogether—even that which passes the tests.
Furthermore, precautions are being taken by the Japanese government to ensure that they do not export any contaminated produce. Tests are being conducted on fish, grains, milk, vegetables, meat and eggs, and if any foods are found to be contaminated, distribution will be halted. Customs officials at both ends are carefully testing all Japanese food exports so that we face almost no risk of exposure.
So, while there may be lots of good food wasted and lost to cautious speculation, Americans can feel pretty confident that any Japanese food we are finding in our restaurants and grocery stores is safe for consumption. Rest assured!
Sources and additional information:
- CBS News – Radiation sickness: 8 terrifying symptoms
- CBS News – Should Americans fear radiation in food?
- Bloomberg Businessweek – Sushi Restaurants Drop Japanese Fish on Radiation Fears
- YouTube video of U.S. Embassy Tokyo Town Hall Meeting – Minister Counselor for Agricultural Affairs Geoffrey Wiggin Discusses Food Security
- Detroit Free Press – Japan finds radiation in food