September 23, 2014
Fish from the Pacific
Ask the Experts

Fish from the Pacific

by Berkeley Wellness  |  

Q: Is it safe to eat fish from the Pacific in light of the radiation released into the ocean by the crippled Fukushima power plant in Japan in 2011?

A: Yes, despite those scary Internet warnings you may have read. In an update in March, the FDA concluded that there’s no evidence that radioactive isotopes from the Fukushima meltdown have gotten into the U.S. food supply at any worrisome levels. Testing of fish from the Pacific Ocean has repeatedly found only barely detectable increases in radio-activity—far below federal safety standards and those of the World Health Organization.

Fukushima was, and continues to be, a disaster for the people in that part of Japan. But keep in mind that the amount of radiation released at Fukushima (and massively diluted in the ocean) has been tiny compared to the radiation left in the environment by nuclear bomb tests in the mid-20th century. And that in turn was much less than the normal background radiation in the environment—including the oceans’ naturally occurring radiation, which comes largely from the Earth’s crust.

More reassurance comes from a team of researchers who have been tracking radiation in bluefin tuna. In a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, they estimated that a 7-ounce serving of the fish contaminated with radiation at the level recorded off the coast of San Diego several months after the meltdown would have had only about 5 percent of the natural radio-activity of a banana. (Yes, normal bananas contain an isotope of potassium—as do potatoes—but are nonetheless safe to eat.)