You don’t have to worry about radioactive milk from this goat… (It’s male.)
Fukushima is out of the news in the U.S., but the effects it has had on our food system (yes, in the U.S.) are still evident…
I received a question from a reader, Mirella, and it prompted me to revisit some of the research that I had done about 6 months ago when the disaster was occurring.
You may be surprised at some of the things that have turned up since then.
Here’s the question (my answer follows)…
“Just wondering about the koji rice and radiation contamination from the fukashima disaster. How can we be sure it is safe? Are the foods coming out of Japan tested for radioactive particles?” – Mirella
Hey Mirella, thanks for your question!
The miso recipe I posted last week did in fact have koji rice (here) as an ingredient and I can understand why you’re worried.
The Fukushima disaster changed our world significantly due to the massive amounts of radioactive material that was released. It contaminated people, sea water and creatures, farmland, and its fallout has been recorded all the way across the world.
So what can you do?
First up, the good news is that you can be 100% amazingly healthy and never eat a food from Japan. So if you’re very seriously concerned about eating foods from Japan you can stop.
You can get great seaweed from the California coast, from Ireland, and many other places that have been tested for not only radiation contamination, but also for heavy metal contamination as well. (We’ve tested our Irish moss and it’s come up completely clean.)
If you’re worried about the California coast seaweed, you can be assured that it’s safe. The Nuclear Engineering Department at UC-Berkeley has been monitoring foods, rainwater and soil ever since the disaster happened.
Here’s what they reported in August 2011:
“8/12 (6:20pm): This week we were able to test three more samples of seaweed from Northern California. Once again, no isotopes from Japan were detected. In addition, the seaweed data table has been expanded to include the naturally-occurring isotope Beryllium-7, which is often found in samples that have been outside or in contact with rain. Other food chain data tables are being expanded to include this natural isotope as well to provide a point of comparison.”
Other foods that you may get from Japan like rice, chlorella (in some cases) and miso can also be sourced from other places around the world.
So while I’m not saying to boycott Japanese imports, I’m hinting strongly that if you’re worried you can completely stop causing yourself stress by eating more locally.
But eating locally, may have it’s challenges as well.
While reading through the UC-Berkeley Nuclear Engineering logs, I found some interesting things that I think you should know about.
Good News: It seems, as of August 2011 in California, many of the vegetables are not contaminated with radioactive isotopes.
“8/16 (6:48pm): We just finished testing a sample of carrots and a sample of cherry tomatoes, both from a local organic farm that has supplied most of our strawberry samples. No radioactive isotopes from Japan were detected.”
Bad News: If you drink milk from California, there still seems to be detectible levels of radioactive Cesium.
“9/27 (12:17pm): We have posted two new store-bought milk samples with Best By dates of 9/26 and 10/1. We continue to detect low levels of both Cs-134 and Cs-137.”
And from raw milk as well:
“9/1 (4:22pm): Two raw milk samples were added to our raw milk page. Both samples come from a single dairy the Sacramento area, and one sample is cow milk and the other is goat milk. Both samples show detectable levels of Cs-134 and Cs-137.”
I haven’t had dairy products regularly in at least a year or so, but I’m not clamoring to reintroduce them into my diet based on this information. These levels are obviously acceptable levels according to EPA and other environmental standards, but I’d be cautious. Just like you can survive without foods from Japan, you can also survive without dairy (and definitely without radioactive milk.)
Finally, here’s the most interesting (I think creepy) test UC-Berkeley conducted.
Creepy News: It appears that the biggest concern for radioactive fallout in California is still coming from pre-1963.
Check this out…
“9/6 (5:26pm): We tested a topsoil sample and a dried manure sample from the Sacramento area. The manure was produced by a cow long before Fukushima and left outside to dry; it was rained on back in March and April. Both samples showed detectable levels of Cs-134 and Cs-137, with the manure showing higher levels than the soil probably because of its different chemical properties and/or lower density.
In addition, a soil sample from Sonoma county was tested. This sample had been collected in late April but we had not had the chance to test it until now.
One interesting feature of the Sacramento and Sonoma soil samples is that the ratio of Cesium-137 to Cesium-134 is very large — approximately 17.6 and 5.5, respectively. All of our other soil samples until now had shown ratios of between 1 and 2. We know from our air and rainwater measurements that material from Fukushima has a cesium ratio in the range of approximately 1.0 to 1.5, meaning that there is extra Cs-137 in these two soil samples. The best explanation is that in addition to Fukushima fallout, we have also detected atmospheric nuclear weapons testing fallout in these soils. Weapons fallout contains only Cs-137 (no Cs-134) and is known to be present in older soils (pre-1963). Both of these samples come from older soils, while our samples until this point had come from newer soils.
This direct comparison between Fukushima fallout and atmospheric weapons fallout in these soils shows that the fallout from Fukushima in Northern California is significantly less than the amount of Cs-137 that still remains from weapons testing, which has had nearly 50 years to disperse and decay.”
Basically, what this means is that in California, we should be more concerned about the fallout from nuclear testing over the last 50 years, than the fallout from Fukushima.
But, I don’t want to scare you here.
The vegetables tested – at least according to UC-Berkeley – have not shown detectable levels recently. This, like I said above, is good news. Our plant food appears safe.
It’s possible our dairy food is safe too, but again, I’m not rushing to add any dairy back into my diet.
For those who may be concerned about water, getting your water from a spring source is your best bet, since this water has likely been filtered, distilled and re-mineralized naturally. I don’t know of any spring water testing that shows either positive or negative results for radiation contamination.
To wrap this up, let me give you a few tips that have been passed around – through I’m not convinced of their effectiveness at any higher level of exposure.
Radiation Nutrition Tip 1: Eat more plants. Plants don’t tend to bio-accumulate these materials like animal foods do.
Radiation Nutrition Tip 2: Eat iodine rich foods. Seaweeds are a great source of iodine, so adding these into your diet is a good plan. A body that has sufficient iodine will not uptake radioactive iodine isotopes like a body that is deficient. (Keep in mind, though, that these isotopes that are showing up are not iodine but cesium, so this may be irrelevant.)
Radiation Nutrition Tip 3: Eat detoxifying foods like chlorella. Chlroella has shown promise when it comes to removing metals from the body, so adding this food can’t hurt – from a radioactive heavy metal standpoint. Keep in mind, chelation therapy is likely to be more effective at removing heavy metals – radioactive or not.
Radiation Nutrition Tip 4: Don’t panic. Acute food neurosis can cause stress and illness. If you’re always panicked about the food you’re eating, I can almost guarantee – sooner or later – you’re going to get sick. You may not be able to control the amount of radioactive material in our environment, but you definitely are able to control how you think and react to it.
There are of course other suggestions, but these seem to be some of the most easy to adopt.
I wrote 6 months ago that the best protocol to avoid fallout was to move where there wasn’t any (here). I still believe that to be true, but at the same time I completely understand that most people aren’t able to do this.
So if you can’t move, talk to the people who are providing your food. Ask them to test for you. If they value you as a customer (and are eating the food too) then chances are they’ll want to know as well.
You do know who grows your food, right?
I want to know your thoughts: Do you eat foods from Japan now? Are you worried about fallout in our food supply?