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State, federal investigators check fish, food for radiation

By June Watanabe


Question: Is the state Department of Health or the federal government spot-testing fish sold here for radiation exposure due to the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant following the March tsunami/earthquake in Japan — in particular, fish known to migrate to Japanese waters? How do we know that the fish we are consuming is safe?

Question: What is the best way to test food from Japan for radiation?

Answer: You don’t need to test the food from Japan because state and federal agencies are testing it for you.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say they have been working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection “to assure that our food supply, both domestic and imported, is safe to eat.”

As of Nov. 2, the FDA said, its investigators had performed more than 27,267 field examinations for radionuclides (radioactive contaminants). They had tested 1,123 samples, including 173 on seafood or seafood products. Only one sample had a detectable level of radionuclides “of concern,” but it was below the established “Derived Intervention Level” and “posed no public health concern,” the FDA said.

The FDA also said it does “not anticipate any public health effect on seafood safety” for a number of reasons, including little or no harvesting of fish taking place around the reactor area; water’s properties as both a shield and diluent, or diluting agent; and the rapid decaying of some radioactive isotopes.

The FDA and Customs officials said they screen all imported food from Japan for radiation, including fish harvested in Japan.

Less than 4 percent of food imported into the United States comes from Japan.

Japan has not exported beef products to the U.S. for nearly a year and is not eligible to export any poultry or processed egg products, the USDA said.

In addition, the Japanese government has restricted sale or export of certain products, including tea leaves from several affected prefectures; certain produce from the Fukushima Prefecture; and milk from the Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures.

See www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm247403.htm for details on all the measures being taken to ensure the safety of food and drugs from Japan.

It would be “correct” to say that consumers do not need to be concerned about radiation problems with food from Japan, because of federal and state monitoring, said Lynn Nakasone, administrator of the state Department of Health’s Environmental Health Services Division.

In addition to the federal oversight of food, Nakasone said the Health Department continues to conduct normal, routine testing of radionuclides in the air, drinking water, precipitation and milk as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s RadNet program.

“Testing results indicate levels are back to normal ambient levels,” Nakasone said.

The Health Department also periodically conducts shoreline monitoring, “in which inspectors literally walk along a specific shoreline and using radiation detection equipment to measure the sand and anything that has washed ashore for any measurable increase in radiation levels.”

 No spikes in radiation levels have been seen, she said.

“Collectively, these results will be considered ‘background’ and compared to the Japan debris field scheduled to reach Hawaii in the next couple of years.”


To HPD for monitoring HOV lane abuse on weekday mornings in East Oahu! Officers recently have been stationed near Waialae Iki Park, deterring and citing those inconsiderate abusers. Even if the officers are not present every day, their occasional monitoring makes drivers without passengers think twice about taking a chance. —– L. Harbottle

Write to “Kokua Line” at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.

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manakuke wrote:
Constant monitoring is required; air freight is almost immediate. Ocean currents bring possibly contaminated debris. Unfortunately it is a matter of when.
on November 10,2011 | 04:24AM
Hapa_Haole_Boy wrote:
I find it hard to believe that just 4% of the food consumed in Hawaii is from Japan. Every grocery store has an entire aisle of "Oriental Food", which consists mostly of Japan-based products, not to mention places like Shirokiya, Marukai, Don Quijote, which stock mostly Japan-based products. Still, I hope the state adequately monitors our food and that no one gets radiation.
on November 10,2011 | 07:28AM
Anonymous wrote:
HPD should also ticket absurdly slow drivers in the HOV and carpool lanes. If you are going to drive AS SLOW or worse, SLOWER than the middle or right lanes, GET OUT of the HOV/carpool lanes. If HPD issued tickets for this, they'd clear out the state deficit in no time.
on November 10,2011 | 07:46AM
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