Recent news of leaks from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant have prompted calls from concerned customers.
So far, those leaks have released far less radioactive water into the ocean, compared with the leaks that occurred in the months following the earthquake.
Weirdly, federal and state agencies have done little or no testing of Pacific seafood to check for radioisotopes related to the nuclear accident.
The Internet echo chamber
You can’t trust everything you see on the Internet.
For example, we've received emails from several people worried by seemingly scary Japan-related information seen on a website.
Almost invariably, these scary posts were written by someone lacking expertise in the relevant fields: radiation in human health, Pacific currents, dilution rates of radioisotopes, fish migration routes, and the accumulation and persistence of radioisotopes in fish.
Most recently, some bloggers have misrepresented the meaning of a graphic from the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmosperhic Administration (NOAA) ... a myth that’s gone viral.
These bloggers claim that the NOAA graphic shows the flow of radiation from Japan. However, that claim is easily debunked, as in a post titled “Fukushima Emergency” at the fact-check website Snopes.com.
In fact, the alleged “radiation flow” map is NOAA’s map of Pacific wave heights following the 2011 earthquake.
Yet, the NOAA wave map continues to spread, mislabeled, even though you can easily see a height-spectrum scale at its right-hand side.
So we took it upon ourselves to test our own seafood, to ensure its safety for our customers and our own families.
To date, Vital Choice is the only retailer that’s revealed the results of radiation tests on Pacific seafood.
And if any other retailer or wholesaler has done radiation testing on their Pacific seafood, they haven’t released the results.
2012 tests proved reassuring
We reported the first radiation test results on March 31, 2012 … see “Vital Choice Fish Pass the Test with Flying Colors”.
Those March, 2012 results covered all 15 of our Pacific fish and shellfish species, including shellfish not likely to be vulnerable to contamination.
In September of 2012, we re-tested four species – North Pacific albacore tuna, Alaskan halibut, Alaskan sockeye salmon, and Alaskan cod – with reassuring results: see “Radiation Tests Clear Vital Choice Fish … Again”.
We tested those four species either because they live fairly long (halibut and cod), or migrate as far west as the mid-Pacific Ocean and or further (albacore and sockeye).
We tested frozen and canned sockeye separately because the fish came from different harvest regions (Alaska and British Columbia, respectively).
As we reported, both series of tests found only normal, safe levels of the specific radioisotopes associated with the Fukushima nuclear accident (cesium 134, cesium 137, and iodine 131).
New tests are underway, results coming soon
We are not retesting our Pacific shellfish (prawns, scallops, crab). Why leave those out?
Shellfish eat mostly plankton and plant matter in their immediate local, which can’t accumulate significant amounts of radiation.
Our shellfish also live too briefly and too far from Japan to absorb significant amounts of radioisotopes from ocean water … a view widely held in the scientific community and supported by our first two test rounds.
Enjoy Vital Choice seafood, worry free
We think it makes good sense to continue enjoying the culinary and health benefits of our Pacific seafood.
Should credible evidence emerge that questions its safety – which appears very unlikely – we will act to alert our customers and protect them from harm by pulling any affected products.
You can read an overview of the safety issues in “No Worries for Vital Choice Seafood”, which also hosts links to outside sources and to our 2012 test results.
As we say there, “No matter how the situation in Japan evolves over time, we will ensure that all products we sell meet high standards of purity and safety. After all, Vital Choice families are among the largest consumers of our own fish.”