Japanese Seafood Is Mostly Free From Fukushima Radiation

A study clears most seafood from any dangerous health effect five years after the nuclear disaster.

01/03/2016 4:10 PM AEDT | Updated 01/03/2016 4:10 PM AEDT
Credit: Bryan Mullennix/Getty Images

Nearly five years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, most seafood caught off the coast of Japan is safe to eat, according to a new study.

The research, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said "the overall contamination risk for aquatic food items is very low" and has decreased steadily since the tsunami-stricken nuclear reactor meltdowns in 2011.

The study, by a team of researchers from several Japanese universities, may quell longstanding fears about the safety of fish caught in Japanese waters since the disaster.

“Highly contaminated foods attract people’s attention,” lead author Hiroshi Okamura told The Washington Post. “Some people cry not to eat seafoods and other people argue many foods are not dangerous.”

The authors note that often contradictory statements on seafood safety stem from ongoing reports of fluctuating radiation levels. But the differences actually can be attributed to confusing analysis, they wrote. 

For this study, the authors crafted a new method to estimate levels of cesium -- the radioactive, potentially cancer-causing element that leaked from Fukushima -- in all seafood. They found most fish were fine for consumption.

Some fish, including large bottom feeders and freshwater fish and crustaceans, did have higher levels of cesium, but only those near the Fukushima area. Most of those freshwater species consumed by humans are farmed. The average consumer wouldn't come into contact with a potentially dangerous fish unless they were caught by leisure fishermen.

Japan adopted some of the strictest seafood regulations in the world after Fukushima, and for years the country has attempted to quash fears about one of its staple cuisines, Time notes. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has said for years there is zero evidence that any fish in the U.S. food supply had levels of radiation that would pose a danger to human health.

March 11 marks the five-year anniversary of the disaster at the nuclear power plant, where reactors melted down following an earthquake-driven tsunami. It was the biggest nuclear accident since Chernobyl, fraught with ongoing leaks of radioactive material into the ocean.

Three former executives of the company that owned the Fukushima plant were indicted this week on charges of criminal negligence.

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