Radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues to pose threat to Japan’s food chain as unsafe levels of cesium found in products on supermarket shelves have continued to be detected in the produce, the land, and the ocean. In the past 2 months at least 3 types of fish including Japanese Sea Bass have been found to contain radioactive cesium levels over the stricter reference levels of 100 Becquerel per kilogram. Miyagi Prefecture and fisheries cooperatives are considering asking fishers in the prefecture to voluntarily refrain from catching the fish.
Contamination has been found in bamboo shoots grown for food in at least three cities in Chiba prefecture, over 200 kilomoters from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Inspections found contamination of up to 250 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram in the prefecture, two and a half times the new government limits which go into effect in the coming weeks.
The officials suspect radioactive cesium carried from Fukushima landed upon the leaves of the parent bamboo and was absorbed by the roots. Last year bamboo shoots from Iwaki and Fukushima prefectures were found contaminated over reference values, which at the time was set at 500 Becquerels per kilogram.
The prefecture is asking farmers to refrain from shipping their bamboo shoots to customers, but many residents feel the government is too slow to act, and that they’ve done little to ensure food safety.
Radiation in food is measured in becquerel, a gauge of the strength of radioactivity in materials such as Iodine-131 and Cesium-137. A becquerel represents one radioactive decay per second, which involves the release of atomic energy that can damage human cells and DNA, and prolonged exposure may potentially cause leukemia and other forms of cancer, according to the World Nuclear Association.
Japan has no centralized system to check for radiation contamination of food, leaving local authorities and farmers conducting voluntary tests. Products including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have been found contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360 kilometers from the crippled plant.