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Japan Nuclear Accident:
Overview and News Updates

We were the first retailer to release the results of radiation tests on Pacific seafood products harvested after the accident in Japan.

Five rounds of tests – conducted from March of 2012 through January of 2015 – found our seafood completely safe.

Look below for the results of each of the six rounds of tests conducted to date.

No matter how the situation 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.

You will find more information about our test program below, followed by relevant information. And we post the latest news in the Updates column at right.

You may also want to see this information:

To put radiation risks in perspective, we recommend "Fear vs. Radiation: The Mismatch”, an October 21, 2013 essay in The New York Times by risk-assessment expert David Ropeik of Harvard University.

We compiled a chart that compares our March, 2012 test results to the radiation levels in common foods ... click here or on the image below to see the full-size version with explanatory text.

Results of tests on Vital Choice Seafood

April, 2016: 6th test round finds our seafood safe

Eurofins Laboratories again tested our sockeye salmon, king salmon, and albacore tuna for cesium-134, cesium-137, and iodine-131. They found no detectable amounts, except for barely detectable, clearly safe traces of cesium-137 in a sample of king salmon.

January, 2015: 5th test round ratifies prior results

SGS and Eurofins Laboratories tested our sockeye salmon, king salmon, and albacore tuna for cesium-134, cesium-137, iodine-131, and strontium-90. They found only barely-detectable traces ... except for a higher but clearly safe amount of strontium-90 in our sockeye.

November, 2013: 4th test round clears our seafood

SGS Laboratories tested our westward-migrating seafood (sockeye salmon, king salmon, albacore tuna) for a scarce but concerning radionuclide called strontium-90, and detected none.

September, 2013: 3rd test finds normal, safe cesium/iodine levels

Eurofins Laboratories tested our salmon (pink, king, sockeye, silver), tuna, cod, halibut, and sablefish for cesium-134, cesium-137, and iodine-131, and found none.

September, 2012: 2nd test finds normal, safe cesium/iodine levels

Eurofins Laboratories tested our Pacific albacore and our Alaskan halibut, sockeye salmon, and cod. They found no cesium-134 or iodine 131, and only a barely detectable, clearly safe level of Cesium 137 in a sample of cod.

March, 2012: 1st test round finds normal, safe cesium/iodine levels

Eurofins Laboratories tested 15 species of fish and shellfish for cesium-134, cesium-137, and iodine-131, and found none.

Why the risk of future contamination is near zero

Radiation released from Japan’s nuclear plants is very unlikely to contaminate seafood harvested from Alaskan or North Pacific waters.

No Vital Choice seafood is caught, spawns, or swims and stays near the stricken nuclear plant on the northeastern coast of Japan. See the information on this page to learn why none of our fish could present a credible health risk.

North Pacific albacore tuna is the only species we sell that could migrate to within 100 miles of the affected area. Sockeye is the only salmon species we sell that migrates though the mid-Pacific ocean.

Vital Choice seafood harvest areas

  • All of our Pacific seafood – salmon, sablefish, halibut, cod, prawns, shrimp, Dungeness crab, mussels, and clams – is caught or harvested off Alaska, Washington State, Oregon, and British Columbia (BC), between 4,000 and 5,000 miles east of the nuclear plant.

  • The sole exceptions are albacore tuna and king crab. Our albacore is caught off Midway Island, and our king crab is caught in the Bering Sea. Both areas are located about 2,500 miles east of the plant.

  • Our sardines and mackerel are caught off the Atlantic coast of Portugal, about 7,000 miles from the Japanese plant.

Sockeye migration routes: Blue (Alaskan) and Red (BC) lines

Neither route comes within 1,000 miles of Japan. Our sockeye salmon are caught off Alaska and British Columbia, about 5,000 miles east of Japan

Sockeye Migration

Click here to view an animated map of Pacific Ocean currents. The map – updated every 5 days – is a project of Earth & Space Research (ESR), whose Ocean Surface Current Analyses Real-time (OSCAR) software calculates ocean surface velocities from satellite data..

The following explanation of the safety of North Pacific albacore tuna and Alaskan salmon comes from the May 3rd, 2011 joint statement by the U.S. EPA, FDA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the the FDA's December 7 update:

  • Juvenile North Pacific albacore tuna (2‐5 years old) typically begin an annual transoceanic migration in the spring and early summer in waters off Japan, continue migrating throughout the late summer into inshore waters off the U.S. Pacific coast, and end their migration in the late fall and winter in the western Pacific ocean. Migratory patterns of North American Pacific salmon most commonly do not reach the coastal or offshore waters of Japan. The majority of Alaska salmon spend most of their ocean residence in the Gulf of Alaska.”

  • The migration of tuna and other species of fish from the coast of Japan to U.S. waters would take days or months under the best of circumstances, and vessels fishing beyond U.S. waters must also travel several days to return to port. During that time needed for a fish contaminated by radiation in Japan to migrate, be caught and reach the market, the level of short‐lived radionuclides such as I‐131 would drop significantly through natural radioactive decay. To date, no significantly elevated radiation levels have been detected in migratory species, including North Pacific albacore.”

  • It is unlikely that a fish exposed to significant levels of radionuclides near the reactor could travel to U.S. waters and be caught and harvested. If this improbable trip did occur, the level of short-lived radionuclides such as I-131 would drop significantly through natural radioactive decay during the time needed to make the journey. At this time, Japanese tests have detected longer-lived radionuclides such as Cs-137 in only a few samples and at levels below FDA DILs [Derived Intervention Levels]. FDA’s testing of fish imported from Japan has not detected the presence of Cs-137.”

  • "The great quantity of water in the Pacific Ocean rapidly and effectively dilutes radioactive material ... radiation levels have dissipated rapidly, reaching drinking water standards by the 30 km [from the plant] test location. This means that seafood harvested in areas distant from the damaged reactor are unlikely to be affected.”

Radiation experts see no cause for concern

A peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June of 2013 evaluated the health risks of consuming Pacific bluefin tuna after the Fukushima event and the authors* came to this reassuring conclusion:

"The additional dose from Fukushima radionuclides to humans consuming tainted PBFT in the United States was calculated to be 0.9 and 4.7 µSv for average consumers and subsistence fishermen, respectively. Such doses are comparable to, or less than, the dose all humans routinely obtain from naturally occurring radionuclides in many food items, medical treatments, air travel, or other background sources.”

The authors also reported these very reassuring facts, which put the risk into context:

  • A typical restaurant-sized portion of Pacific bluefin tuna (200 grams, or 7 ounces) contains about 5 percent of the radiation you would get from eating one uncontaminated banana and absorbing it’s naturally occurring radiation. All foods on the planet contain radiation. Like every other toxin, it’s the dose of radiation (rather than its simple presence) that determines whether it’s toxic to humans.

  • Levels of naturally occurring radioactive isotopes (polonium-210 and potassium-40) in bluefin tuna are greater by orders of magnitude than levels of radioactive isotopes from Fukushima contamination (cesium-134 and cesium-137). In fact, levels of polonium-210 were 600 times higher than cesium. This suggests that the additional radiation (in the form of cesium) from Fukushima is insignificant from a health perspective.

  • Even at very high intakes (3/4 of a pound of contaminated bluefin tuna a day) for an entire year, you’d still receive only 12 percent of the dose of radiation you’re exposed to during one cross-country flight from LA to New York.

  • Assuming the very high levels of fish consumption above, the excess relative risk of fatal cancer would be only 2 additional cases per 10 million similarly exposed people. And there’s reason to believe that number is no more than chance. Statistically significant elevations in cancer risk are only observed at doses of radiation that are 25,000 times higher than what you’d be exposed to by eating 3/4 of a pound of bluefin tuna per day.

  • Some bottom-feeding fish right off the coast of Japan contain much higher levels of radiation (i.e. >250 times more cesium) than those found in Pacific bluefin tuna. Even if you consumed 1/3 of a pound per day of this highly contaminated fish, you’d still be below the international dose limit for radiation exposure from food.

*The authors came from Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, and the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety

Dilution of radiation in the ocean

On April 5, 2011, National Public Radio interviewed Dr. Masashi Kusakabe, director of Japan’s Nakaminato Laboratory for Marine Radioecology, which studies what happens to radioactive material that gets into the ocean.

As Kusakabe noted, "the ocean is so vast that radioactive materials are heavily diluted by the time they travel even a few miles”.

And on May 3, 2011, The New York Times reviewed the radiation risks to Americans from the Japanese plant, and the facts presented suggest that the risks are extremely low: see "Drumbeat of Nuclear Fallout Fear Doesn’t Resound With Experts”.

Here are some relevant comments from Greenpeace, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the State of Alaska.

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says that it expects that no harmful levels of radioactivity would travel from Japan to the United States "given the thousands of miles between the two countries.” (NYT 3/16/2011)

  • Union of Concerned Scientists physicist Ed Lyman, Ph.D., told The Anchorage Daily News, "it's unlikely, even worst case, that there would be significant health effects for [North American] people.” (ADN 2011)

  • John Hocevar of the Greenpeace Oceans Campaign wrote in a letter to, "… we have no reason to believe that radioactive contamination currently provides any health concern for seafood from the North Pacific.” (SNC 3/16/2011)

State of Alaska pledges close scrutiny

The state of Alaska issued two statements in mid-March of 2011:

Radiation from nuclear event in Japan

We don’t expect significant levels of radioactivity in our state, and there’s no health risk at this time. Japan is thousands of miles from our state, and if radioactivity from the reactors is released it would be expected to be thinned-out by the winds before it could reach us.

We could see a very small increase in radiation levels — well below levels that would be a health concern. We’re working with federal, state, and local agencies in a coordinated effort to monitor radiation levels in Alaska.

State continues monitoring damaged Japanese reactor situation:
Still no immediate or anticipated threat in Alaska

The state of Alaska, along with our federal counterparts, is continuing to monitor the situation in Japan regarding their nuclear reactors.

Although the situation surrounding the nuclear reactors in Fukushima Dai-ichi remains grave, radioactive material is still not expected to reach Alaska in any quantity sufficient to produce health concerns, according to scientists with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The only way the atmospheric radiation can reach the U.S. is through the high level jet stream. The jet streams over the Pacific are far south of Alaska for the next three days. There is no immediate or anticipated threat of harmful radiation reaching Alaska or its waters, therefore all seafood and other food items produced in Alaska are safe to consume. State officials will notify the public through regular media channels and department websites should the situation change.


Updates to the Japan Situation
Check here for the latest news

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