Japanese milk and spinach just do not factor much in the U.S. food supply, but what about radioactive fish?
Five billion pounds of seafood are imported annually to the U.S. without much inspection.
But we should not worry for two reasons about Japan’s fish exports (mostly Pacific saury, chum salmon, mackerel, tuna, and scallops), U.S. government agencies say.
First, while there are a lot of fish in the sea, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is a whole lot more water. “The great quantity of water in the Pacific Ocean rapidly and effectively dilutes radioactive material, so fish and seafood are likely to be unaffected,” it says.
Second are the homeland security measures put in place after 9/11. Specifically, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection “employs several types of radiation detection equipment in its operations at both air and sea ports, and uses this equipment, along with specific operational protocols, to resolve any security or safety risks that are identified with inbound travelers and cargo.”
Thus CBP promises it would catch any shipment of hot mackerel and FDA says it will take “all steps to evaluate and measure any contamination in fish presented for import into the US.”
Fish is a staple of the Japanese diet and the nation’s demand for seafood makes it the world’s largest importer of aquatic fare. Radiation exposure from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is already disrupting seafood markets in the Pacific due to both government actions and waning demand.
After 10 days of radiation-free tests, Hong Kong’s Center for Food Safety found readings ranging from 2.6 to 10 times allowable levels in samples of white radishes, turnips and spinach. That prompted Hong Kong to suspend all food and milk shipments from Japan’s five most impacted prefectures.
The ban, including meat and seafood imports, covers Chiba, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma and Fukushima Prefectures. The hot vegetable imports were caught at the Hong Kong International Airport.
Like the FDA ban, which was imposed at about the same time, Hong Kong will allow Japanese products to “test in” by showing evidence of compliance with safety rules.
The FDA import alert prevents milk, milk products, fresh vegetables and fruit from four prefectures– Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Gunma from being shipped to the United States. All the areas are near the Fukushima nuclear reactors.
Taiwan is advertising its “fresh, cheap, and radiation free” seafood products, while implementing a “batch-by-batch” inspection program for seafood products from Japan. Japanese imports already in the country will be subject to additional random checks.
Large-scale Radiation Portal Monitors (RPM) are being used by the United States at all international airports and seaports and are used to scan all maritime cargo, express consignment and mail arriving from Japan.