Fukushima Nuclear Facility: What About Food Safety?

Damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima facility resulted in elevated radiation levels near the power plant following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Most recently, questions from the United States have focused on the safety of food imported from Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  have answered the call for information. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) have also issued food safety statements.


A few answers from the FDA

What food products come to the US from Japan?

Foods imported from Japan make up less than 4 percent of foods imported from all sources. The most common food products imported from Japan include seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables. Dairy products make up only one-tenth of one percent of all FDA-regulated products imported from Japan.

Is there any reason for concern about radiation from these products when they are imported into the US?

There are no concerns for products that were already in transit when the explosion occurred at the reactor. Right now, due to the damage to the Japanese infrastructure, FDA believes export activity is severely limited. FDA is monitoring all import records for Japan to determine when importation will resume.

How does the FDA protect the US food supply?

There are more than 900 investigators and 450 analysts in FDA’s Foods program who conduct inspections and

An FDA micorbiologist mixes seafood samples with an enrichment broth to test for microorganisms
FDA microbiologist

 collect and analyze product samples. The FDA oversees the importation of regulated products, including food and animal feed, among other responsibilities. The Agency carries out targeted (those that may pose a significant public health threat) risk-based analyses of imports at points of entry. Although FDA doesn’t physically inspect every product, the Agency electronically screens 100 percent of imported food products before they reach our borders.

What are the current procedures for measuring radiation contamination in food?

FDA has procedures and laboratory techniques for measuring radionuclide levels in food, and can also use the Food Emergency Response Network (FERN). FERN integrates the nation’s food-testing laboratories at the local, state and federal levels into a network that is able to respond to emergencies involving biological, chemical or radiological contamination of food. FDA is working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to share resources and techniques for measuring contamination. FDA and other domestic regulatory labs have validated analytical methods to detect radiological contamination in food.

How will the radiation affect fish and seafood that have not yet been fished or harvested?

The quantity of water in the Pacific Ocean is great enough to rapidly and effectively dilute radioactive material, so fish and seafood are likely to be unaffected. However, FDA is taking all steps to evaluate and measure any contamination in fish presented for import into the US.

Related EDEN page: Nuclear Release

Six Tips for Integrating Disaster Education Into Your Extension Work

One day you were minding your own business when a colleague came along and talked you into becoming an EDEN delegate. It sounded really good at the time, but now you may wonder how disaster education can be incorporated into your work.

Here are six actions you can take to help reduce the impact of disaster on your communities.

  • Teach your audiences how they can become resilient and resistant to disaster as part of your curriculum. Incorporate preparedness concepts in your regular education efforts. Preparedness is not limited to one Extension program area. Demonstrate how taking steps to protect property and homes from disaster (mitigation) is actually good practice for normal times. Show how determining what natural or man-made disasters citizens are most at risk of experiencing can be used to reduce their vulnerability to those same disasters.
  • Facilitate disaster planning discussions, meetings, workshops. Use ReadyBusiness, Stengthening Community Agrosecurity Planning (S-CAP), Coastal Community Resiliency Index, and other tools to frame the sessions.
  • Promote EDEN, eXtension and state resources that relate to disaster education. For example, states in the Central U.S. this spring can benefit from the Floods and Flooding EDEN topic page, eXtension flood articles and frequently asked questions, publications found on state websites, as well as from regularly scheduled webinars. Include resources in your newsletters, blog posts and other communication tools.
  • Develop partnerships with key people to make sure you are connected at the local, state and national levels. Local key contacts include your county/parish emergency manager, sheriff, fire chief, Citizen Corps, Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and county officials. These connections will make communications between your agencies and organizations run more smoothly during a disaster. These partnerships also expand your opportunities to find funding to support your educational efforts.
  • Build and maintain inventory lists of supplies, suppliers, and contacts. Not only will this information be useful in an emergency, you will find it valuable in day-to-day work efforts.
  • Learn the chain of command used in an emergency or disaster. Most state and local responders use the Incident Command System for managing crises. Knowing the accepted protocol gives you credibility with your local emergency responders and emergency management agency. This knowledge is key to your access to those in need during a disaster so that you can deliver appropriate resources.

Regards, Virginia Morgan, EDEN Chair