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What you need to know about the safety of the U.S. food supply, following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency in Japan

A message from David Schmidt, President and CEO of the International Food Information Council and Foundation

March 18, 2011

A message from David Schmidt, President and CEO of the International Food Information Council:

While some regions of California have experienced the effects of the tsunami, consumer concern about food contaminated by radiation from damaged nuclear power plants in Japan is unwarranted at this time.  The level of radiation that could potentially reach the USA is anticipated to be very low and winds will dissipate it further.

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency were a devastating blow to the people of Japan.  Our hearts go out to those who continue to suffer extreme hardships as these unfortunate events continue to evolve.  What is occurring is very complicated and unprecedented.  These conditions are being closely monitored and the experts' assessments are regularly relayed to us here in the United States.

We have learned that health authorities in the Asia region, including the Philippines, Singapore and India have begun testing any Japanese imported fresh produce for possible contamination by radioactive fallout.  The European Union is taking similar action.  Japan is not a large exporter of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

In a March 17 public address, President Obama stated “We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the West Coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or U.S. territories in the Pacific.  That is the judgment of our Nuclear Regulatory Commission and many other experts.  Furthermore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health experts do not recommend that people in the United States take precautionary measures beyond staying informed.”

The World Health Organization has also cautioned people against self-medication with potassium iodide or products containing iodine, which they have stressed should only be taken when there is a clear recommendation from public health authorities, as in the case of an acute and direct nuclear emergency.

If you would like to know more about the risks of radiation please consult the following resources:  

Dr. Christine Bruhn, Director, Consumer Research, University of California Davis and Dr. Aurora Saulo, Extension Specialist in Food Technology, University of Hawaii contributed to the content of this article.

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