Friday, December 09, 2011

Radiation in Food

In the aftermath of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, one of the major concerns for the people in the country is the amount of radiation that they are likely to be exposed to. Little can be done about the amount of radiation in the environment that one is exposed to. The radiation levels are currently much lower than even a month before. We can definitely take certain steps towards reducing the amount of radiation by avoiding food which could be contaminated and cooking in a way that reduces any possible contamination. Foods like vegetables, fruits, meat, seafood, poultry are constantly monitored to check the contamination level and anything which does not pass the safety standard set by the government does not enter the market.

When we returned to Japan, last month, our friend took us to the department store and helped us identify the stuff that we could purchase without any fear of contamination. It was amazing to sea the seafood and meat being labeled for the place of origin. For instance seafood was marked as originating from Russia, Brazil etc. Also seafood from other parts of Japan such as Hokkaido was marked so that people could purchase these without worrying about the safety. Meat is mainly sourced from Australia or US and the marking sometimes also has a map or flag of the country. This is definitely a boon for people like us who do not read much of Japanese and survive with our Hiragana and Katakana reading skills. Seafood from the prefectures near Fukushima are also marked and sometimes also kept on separate shelves.

Vegetables and fruits from Fukushima or even local Iwaki produce is kept on separate shelves. Milk and milk products also have the marking of the place where they were produced. If one can memorise or identify the Kanji for few cities like Tokyo, Kanagawa or Hokkaido, it is easy to pick up the milk. Generally we prefer to purchase the milk from Hokkaido, the northernmost territory of Japan which is far flunged from the disaster affected area. One of our acquaintances also mentioned that the locals prefer to pick up vegetables produced from areas in southern and western Japan or Hokkaido. Tap water is reportedly safe for consumption, however it is advisable to avoid drinking tap water and prefer bottled water.

Our friend gave us a list of items which are restricted by the government for likely contamination. Few items have now been taken off the list, but it would be recommend to restrict the consumption of these :

S.No
Product
Japanese Name
Category
Produced in  Prefecture
Restricted till date
1
Yuzu
Yuzu
Fruit
Fukushima
Ongoing
2
Japanese apricot
Ume
Fruit
Fukushima
Ongoing
3
Trout/ Brook char
Yamame
Seafood
Fukushima
Ongoing
4
 Japanese Dace
Ugui
Seafood
Fukushima
Ongoing
5
Sweet fish
Ayu
Seafood
Fukushima
Ongoing
6
Beef
Gyuniku
Meat
Fukushima
25th August 2011
7
Bamboo Shoot
Takenoko
Vegetables
Fukushima
Ongoing
8
Milk
Gyunyu
Dairy Products
Fukushima
7th October 2011
9
Turnip
Kabu
Vegetables
Fukushima
23rd March 2011
10
 Sand Lance
Ikanago
Seafood
Fukushima
20th April 2011
11
Shiitake mushroom and Mushrooms
Shiitake, Kinoko
Mushrooms
Fukushima
18th October 2011
12
Flatfish
Karei
Seafood
Fukushima
Ongoing
13
Tea
O-Cha
Beverage
Chiba
4th July 2011
14
Spinach
Horensu
Vegetables
Chiba
8th April 2011
15
Shiitake mushroom and mushrooms
Shiitake, Kinoko
Mushrooms
Chiba
8th April 2011
16
Parsley
Paseri
Vegetables
Chiba
4th April 2011
17
Crown Daisy
Shyungi
Vegetables
Chiba
4th April 2011
18
Bok Choy
Chingensai
Vegetables
Chiba
4th April 2011
19
Tea
O-cha
Beverage
Ibaraki
18th October 2011
20
Parsley
Paseri
Vegetables
Ibaraki
17th April 2011
21
Milk
Gyunyu
Dairy Products
Ibaraki
10th April 2011
22
Spinach
Horensu
Vegetables
Ibaraki
1st June 2011
23
Shiitake mushroom and Mushrooms
Shiitake, Kinoko
Mushrooms
Ibaraki
14th October 2011
24
Beef
Gyuniku
Meat
Tochigi
25th August 2011
25
Tea
O-cha
Beverage
Tochigi
8th July 2011
26
Spinach
Horensu
Vegetable
Tochigi
27th April 2011
27
Tea
O-cha
Beverage
Kanagawa
14th October 2011
28
Dried Shiitake
Kanso Shiitake
Mushrooms
Kanagawa
Ongoing
29
Tea
O-Cha
Beverage
Gunma
30th June 2011
30
Spinach
Horensu
Vegetable
Gunma
8th April 2011
31
Beef
Gyuniku
Meat
Miyagi
19th August 2011
32
Beef
Gyuniku
Meat
Iwate
25th August 2011
33
Dried Shiitake
Kanso Shiitake
Mushrooms
Shizuoka
Ongoing
34
Tea
O-cha
Beverage
Tokyo

35
Tea
O-cha
Beverage
Saitama



Guidelines for choosing Vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy products with less contamination:

Some food products catch radiation easily while others do not catch radiation easily.

The food which DO NOT catch radiation easily are listed below :
S.No
Vegetables
Fruits
1
Cabbage
Apple
2
Cucumber
Pear
3
Zucchini
Apricot
4
Tomato
Strawberry
5
Onion
Cherry
6
Paprika/Capsicum/Green Pepper
Raspberry
7
Garlic
Gooseberry
8
Potato

9
Carrot

10
Daikon- Japanese radish

11
Green peas

12
Beans


The food which DO catch radiation easily are listed below :

S. No
Vegetables and Grains
Fruits
1
Wheat
Red gooseberry
2
Rye
Black gooseberry
3
Potato
Blueberry
4
Soybeans
Cranberry
5
Beetroot
Cowberry
6
Corn


Dairy products are easily contaminated. Milk is easily contaminated, as such it is preferable to purchase milk from areas not affected by the nuclear disaster. Dairy products like butter, cheese and fresh cream are less likely to contain radiation due to the higher butterfat content. The top water layer in yogurt can be contaminated easily, as such it is advisable to drain the top water layer before consuming yogurt.

Tips for reducing radiation in food while cooking :

1. Wash, peel and soak vegetables in salted water before boiling. When boiling it is advisable avoid using the broth. When steaming vegetables it is recommended to peel the skin of vegetables. This process is said to reduce the Cesium 137 contamination (if any) by 20-50 %.

2. Soaking mushrooms in salted water for about 20 hours and then rinsing it is said to reduce the radiation level by 28 becquerels/kg.

3. When cooking meat, it is advisable to cut the meat into medium size and soaking it in salted water to which vinegar has been added, for 10-12 hours. Rinse the meat before using. If boiling meat, boil for about 8-10 minutes and drain the water.

For children:
It is recommended to include Apples, Orange marmalade and egg white in the daily diet for children.  Children with high calcium intake and stronger bones  are less likely to get affected by the strontium levels. If possible, children should be given calcium supplement after proper consultation.

Unfortunately most of the information is available only in Japanese. Foreigners like us have to depend on local friends to help us in understanding these. My friend took pains to translate the information from the Japanese website.

With the kind of information available and the measures in place, the situation in Fukushima and Japan, especially with regard to food and radiation is not as grim as it seems.

For further information and updates please visit the website:

2 comments:

  1. Really useful information.. Though I was very late to come across this information, but cant wait to thank for such information...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks a lot. Am glad I could share whatever information I had. I know it is a big concern especially for foreigners.

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