How Japan’s Nuclear Crisis is Affecting Food

It’s hard to keep up with all the news coming out of Japan about their nuclear plant troubles.  According to an article in the Washington Post, damages from the events have caused about 25 trillion yen, or $309 billion, worth of damages. Japanese authorities recently disclosed that 11 different vegetables have surpassed the legal limit of radioactive material, including broccoli, cabbage, turnips, parsley, and other leafy green vegetables.  Radioactive substances have also been found in water in Tokyo, so officials are distributing three 550-milliliter bottles of water to each Tokyo household with an infant.  Unfortunately, this excludes many residents and is often not enough for those who do receive water from the government.  Stores have obviously run out.

Recently officials said radiation levels in milk and spinach are not high enough to be harmful.  However, data now shows the radiation increase to be potentially dangerous for contaminated foods eaten on a regular basis.  The United States FDA has banned dairy products, fruit and vegetables from being imported from four prefectures north of Tokyo, and seafood will have to pass a screening before allowed into the country.  Although the Japanese government is planning to offer subsidies to farmers whose crops were damaged by nuclear fallout, some farmers are afraid they won’t be able to make a living off of their crops when consumers reduce consumption of their products out of fear.  Their fear comes from the development of thyroid cancer in children who had drunk milk after the 1986 Chernobyl accident.  As the consequences of the 2011 tsunami continue, check out our 40th Anniversary Earth Day curriculum pages to gain a greater understanding of historical environmental events such as Chernobyl and learn how to move forward.  For more information or to donate to Japan’s relief efforts please follow this link to USAID.