Living With Radiation In Japan

Pretty Grocery Store ShelfLocal food coops that carefully select and test their food have become a go-to source for people concerned about contamination in the food supply. Food vendors that source from safer regions or direct from farm sales from these safer areas have become popular ways to compensate for the uncertainty in the food supply. This non profit called Project Food is sourcing foods from safer areas, testing them then offering them for sale. They recently sent some clean rice to schools in Date Fukushima. Communication systems like the #okfood hashtag on twitter also provide communication about safe food choices and what products are not contaminated.

At least one grocery chain has been trying to test food products since the disaster showed there was a widespread problem. The store checks raw ingredients like meat and produce. They do not check packaged foods. Grocery retailers have the luxury of selecting who and where they buy food products from. Aeon has used these tactics to try to improve consumer confidence in their offerings. Most of the foods had no contamination, they also mostly come from areas with limited fallout and food products known to not be high in contamination. These results should not be considered as any sort of survey of food products as a whole in Japan. They do show that a retailer can improve the safety of their offerings through their purchasing decisions.

Aeon testing results:
Beef:  They do source meat from regions known to not be contaminated.
Rice: They source rice from a limited set of locations or farms.
Produce: Selectively sourced from regions not considerably impacted by contamination.
Seafood: Mostly sourced away from Fukushima, some Pacific fish, usually of species known to be low in contamination.

Some ways to find safer food exist. Eating on the run, ingredients of unknown origin and restaurant foods still pose a considerable unknown for consumers. The government continues to support the sale of contaminated foods as long as they are below the government limit, where they will show up remains a big question.

Geography is also not the only factor in risk. Highly contaminated soil was found in Tokyo and Yokohama as we documented last week. Wood stove ash burned in Tokyo contained cesium. Parents worry about the safety of playgrounds, soil outside and keeping levels of contamination down in their homes. In one very disturbing example discovered in the last year, a hot particle was found in a vacuum cleaner bag from Nagoya. The Civil Engineering & Environmental Lab at Worcester Polytechnic Institute found it by dividing down the dust sample. The particle scaled up to a gram weight would have been 10.8 MBq per gram, the microscopic particle alone was 162 bq. Nagoya is south and west of Tokyo.

While the media and the government tend to consider the disaster over, the residual risk exists and will for decades. The best defense people have found is either to move or be meticulous about their personal choices.

image credit | faroutliers.blogspot.com

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