Radiation Fears Have Sushi Lovers in a Tizzy

sushiIs sushi still safe to eat? It's an excellent question considering that sushi is a Japanese dish and radioactive materials have been spilling into Japanese waters for the last few weeks. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from this scenario is that the radiation will contaminate not just the water, but fish and shellfish.

So should we avoid the raw fish delicacy for an indefinite amount of time until we can be sure the crisis has passed and the food is safe for consumption?

Not so fast ...


First things first: Just because sushi is a Japanese dish doesn't necessarily mean that raw fish is coming direct from Japan. In fact, according to Trevor Corson, author of The Story of Sushi, "most of the fish isn't coming from Japan."

That said, some high-end restaurants like Le Bernardin in New York are now testing fish for radioactivity and have stopped buying fish from Japan. Moreover, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is screening incoming fish and other food from Japan for traces of radiation. So, clearly, radiation in seafood has at least some food experts worried.

Next question: Is consuming food from Japan that is potentially radioactive a dangerous endeavor? That all depends on who you choose to believe. Patricia A. Hansen, a senior scientist at the F.D.A., admitted that the current radiation detection methods aren't perfect; even so, the amount of radioactivity is too low to cause harm:

One fish that might be at an intervention level in a huge cargo container, we’re not going to pick that up ... But the important context is, is that one fish at the intervention level a public health concern? No, it is not.

But Nicholas Fisher, a professor of marine sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, was less optimistic:

You’re not going to die from eating it right away ... but we’re getting to levels where I would think twice about eating it.

Unfortunately, neither of these statements is making me feel particularly confident about ordering a spicy tuna roll. In a nutshell, it sounds like eating sushi may be safe, but then again, it may not be, too.

Are you going to think twice now about eating sushi?


Image via Mike Tex/Flickr

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