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Japan-Radiation Test Results: 5th Round
We’ve tested our seafood for a fifth time … and again received very reassuring results

01/16/2015
We're pleased to announce the results from our fifth round of radiation tests.

They ratify the good results of our prior tests, and confirm that our fish are perfectly safe.

Vital Choice was the first U.S. retailer to reveal the results of radiation tests on Pacific seafood.

In 2012, we tested our seafood twice for radionuclides from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, and it was found totally safe.

We re-tested our seafood twice in 2013 … and again received uniformly reassuring results.

You will find links to all of our prior test reports on our Japan Nuclear Accident: Overview and Updates page.

Latest test results prove reassuring
Late last fall, radiation-detection experts at Eurofins Laboratories and SGS Laboratories analyzed samples of our primary wild Alaskan and Pacific seafood products.

They looked for traces of the four radionuclides that are the only unsafe radioactive elements released in significant amounts from the stricken nuclear plant: cesium-134, cesium-137, iodine-131, and strontium-90.

With one exception, the 5th round of tests found none of these four key Fukushima-related radionuclides in any of our fish samples.

The sole exception was a sample of sockeye salmon, which reportedly contained traces of strontium-90 that fell below the FDA safety limit, as detailed below. 

Cesium-134 – None detected (<1.0 Bq/kg*)

Cesium-137: None detected (<1.0 Bq/kg).

Iodine-131 – None detected (<2.0 Bq/kg).
Note: Iodine-131 decays to totally safe forms within about two weeks after its creation in a nuclear plant.

Strontium-90: None detected in king salmon, halibut, or albacore tuna. Sockeye salmon contained 1,760 pCi/kg of strontium-90, which is less than half (41%) of the FDA's safety limit (DIL) of 4,300 pCi/kg. 

Note: We seriously doubt that the sockeye sample contained that much strontium-90, for the reasons explained at the bottom of this page*. We will endeavor to test the subsequent sockeye harvest to confirm our suspicion of a lab error. (Unfortunately, the lab that reported this dubiously high, albeit safe, result is the only lab we have found that is willing to test for strontium-90.)

Grains, leafy vegetables, and dairy products are the leading sources of dietary strontium-90 in the U.S. diet, and the concentration in U.S.-grown vegetables typically peaks at 9 pCi/kg. 

To learn more about the terms referenced here, and place the results in perspective, see "Vital Choice Fish Pass the Test with Flying Colors”.

Our testing criteria and rationale
We chose to test sockeye salmon, king salmon, halibut, and albacore, because they are the only species we sell that could pose a plausible – albeit remote – risk of accumulating significant amounts of radionuclides from Japan.

Some sockeye salmon migrate through the mid-Pacific Ocean, while some albacore tuna migrate to within a few hundred miles of Japan.

(The only area of the Pacific Ocean where tests have detected elevated – albeit still quite low – levels of radionuclides from the plant is within about 10 miles of the plant.)

Halibut and king salmon stay much closer to the Pacific coast of North America, but live long enough to conceivably accumulate radiation from the smaller, short-lived creatures they eat … assuming that those creatures contain significant amounts, which is unlikely.

We did not retest our Pacific shellfish (prawns, scallops, crab) because they 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 that is supported by the results of our first two test rounds.
 
The risk of contaminated seafood was never high
Dilution and distance should protect the purity of seafood caught more than 10 miles east of Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant.

Those predictions even encompass species that may swim through eastbound Japan-to-U.S. currents. 

And the consensus scientific view now enjoys support from five rounds of tests on Pacific seafood sold by Vital Choice. 

Only one other retailer of Pacific seafood has followed our lead and tested its products. Like us, they found either none of the radionuclides from Japan, or only the extremely low, safe levels that occur naturally in Pacific seafood

Radiation levels predicted to peak at very low, safe levels by 2016
The most recent study suggests that radiation levels in ocean waters off of the Pacific coast – source of most our seafood – will peak in the next year or two, at very low and safe levels.

For more on that, see "Radioactivity in Pacific Coast waters projected to peak at very safe levels by 2016” under "Updates to the Japan Situation” on our Japan Nuclear Accident: Overview and Updates page.

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 on our Japan Nuclear Accident: Overview and Updates page, which also hosts links to outside sources and to all of our 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.”

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 Atmospheric 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 ... look for the height-spectrum scale at its right-hand side.

Yet, the NOAA wave map continues to spread, mislabeled, to mislead millions.


*We strongly suspect that the result showing strontium-90 in a sample of sockeye salmon was a laboratory error. Here's why:
  • Levels of strontium 90 in the northeastern Pacific Ocean would had to have risen to extremely high levels to produce the implausibly higher strontium 90 levels detected in the sample of sockeye tested in our January 2015 round, compared with the prior round.
  • Levels of strontium 90 in the waters of the mid- and northeastern Pacific would've had to have risen to stratospheric levels to produce that result in a relatively short-lived fish like sockeye.
  • And if such a stratospheric rise in Pacific ocean levels of strontium 90 had occurred, the strontium 90 levels in the other fish tested would've been comparably higher than in the previous round, and the routine tests performed by various academic and government bodies would've detected such a remarkable rise.
  • Instead, a report from Canadian researchers estimates that levels of all radionuclides from Fukushima will peak at low, safe levels in 2016 and start to fall thereafter. (See the December 29, 2014 report at the top of the right-hand column on our Japan radiation page, titled "Radioactivity in Pacific Coast waters projected to peak at very safe levels by 2016”.)


Sources
  • Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Public Health Statement for Strontium. Section 1.3 How might I be exposed to strontium? Accessed at http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=654&tid=120
  • Eurofins Analytical Laboratories. Reporting Date 12/18/2014. Sample codes AR-14-QA-050294-01, AR-14-QA-050293-01, AR-14-QA-050292-01, and AR-14-QA-050291-01.
  • SGS North America Food Services. Reporting Date January 15, 2015. Certificate Number 3653256-FD. 
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA Derived Intervention Level (DIL) or Criterion for Each Radionuclide Group. Accessed at http://www.fda.gov/downloads/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/UCM251056.pdf