Local Chef Takes North Pacific Seafood Off Menu


A Santa Barbara chef is taking extreme measures to keep his customers safe from what said is dangerous seafood.

Robert Perez has been a chef for more than three decades, but it was the nuclear disaster in Japan that changed the way he cooks.

In March 2011, a tsunami triggered by an earthquake rocked the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, causing radioactive materials to leak.

Even though scientists have said that the radiation in the ocean is now low, Perez isn’t buying it.

“The way things are heading, we just feel strongly that it is not safe, and I’m not going to consume the fish and I’m definitely not going to provide it to my guests. I just can’t do that with a clear conscience,” said Perez.

The menu at Seagrass changed slightly two years ago when the restaurant stopped using Japanese seafood. Around a year ago, Hawaiian fish was taken off the menu. Now, all seafood from the San Diego border to Alaska is gone.
The change has forced Perez to get his fish from Mexico, the Atlantic or even farther.

“Alpine, New Zealand salmon,” said Perez as he unwrapped a piece of fish. “It comes from glacier water.”

He believes he’s the only chef in the area making such strict choices on his food, because no one really talks about it.
“They go, ‘Fuku-what?’ It’s like the F-word. It’s like the other F-word, or maybe it’s the new F-word,” he said.

Scientist think avoiding the seafood is overboard and have said the levels of radiation in fish are less than what people are exposed to from x-rays.
Perez said he has to be able to stand behind what he serves, even if people think it’s extreme.

“It’s easy for people to be convinced that there’s no harm right now, and that’s part of the problem,” he said.

Although it’s an adjustment for customers, Perez said he’s not trying to stand out.

“That’s just part of who we are. And I cook because I want to please people. And I want people to be healthy with my food. I want them to feel good physically and spiritually. So that’s my intent, that’s the intent I put out there. So if I have a product that I feel uncomfortable with, and I don’t care if it’s an onion or a piece of meat or a piece of fish, it’s all the same. It has to be something that I can stand behind and say, ‘Please try this.'”

Fukushima’s Fish Tale

Simply Info

A Canadian paper talked to experts and used government data to estimate the risk to human health from Fukushima contaminated fish. The results were rather disturbing. Using EPA cancer calculations and Japan’s existing fish testing data they found a clear cancer risk to not just people in Japan but anywhere those fish are exported to. They then looked at the potential due to distribution of radiation around the pacific and found an exponential risk to the public.

Something not tested for to date but mentioned by Straight.com is the risk from strontium 90 and plutonium in Pacific fish. No agency or citizen group is testing for these two isotopes in the food supply, this includes Pacific sea food. The amounts and distribution of these isotopes in the international food supply remain a mystery.

Straight.com also pointed out the other heath risks rarely mentioned when talking about radiation exposure such as heart disease and genetic damage. They spoke to a number of experts, in the end they all agreed there is at least some risk to eating fish with man made radionuclides such as cesium, strontium or plutonium. They disagreed somewhat on the degree of risk. The research also found a similar problem with Canadian seafood testing that we found previously with FDA testing. The fish most at risk for contamination were rarely if ever tested. This tactic gives a false sense of security and leaves the true risk factor unknown. CFIA did some other food testing in 2012 but has refused to release the data even a year later. They claimed it is still being analyzed. This excuse is a non-starter. Citizen groups, farm coops and the Japanese government have all managed to put out radiation testing results for food in a timely manner. This is usually the same day or within a week of conducting the tests.

TEPCO has been testing fish in the port at the plant and within a 20km radius. The types of fish being tested in both locations differs. This may be partially due to the habitat of those fish species or a reluctance to sufficiently test the same species in both locations as it could show contamination is not staying in the port as TEPCO has tried to claim. There is also no 3rd party verification or oversight on their fish testing efforts. Only some of the haul could be being tested or only desired results are reported. The pubic really has no way of knowing and would need to accept TEPCO’s testing on faith. Some of the fish tested by a local university showed higher levels than TEPCO’s testing. A rockfish caught 1.5km from the plant showed 442 bq/kg of cesium. Meanwhile TEPCO’s testing shows much lower in their testing. Kinki University, that found the contaminated rockfish is also working on other fish testing in the Pacific in conjunction with US universities.



Meanwhile Russia is looking to increase their screening of fish due to concerns from Fukushima. Officials expressed concern over the possible re-importation of fish via South Korea or China since screening programs in some countries do not have an actual tracking system.
Japan began efforts this week to get the WTO to intervene in South Korea’s ban of some Japanese seafood after new leaks at Fukushima Daiichi were admitted.

A citizen radiation watchdog group, BQwatcher posted these contamination readings this week, found on Japanese government websites.
Miyagi Full Season → Genki blue uni Kesennuma 8.7 Bq / kg

Ibaraki 130 Bq / kg · Komonkasube 33, flounder, yellowtail flounder 11 7.7, rock trout, red sea bream 2.8 1.2 1.1 Shousaifugu

Ibaraki Kasumigaura 44 Bq / kg · Gengoroubuna 40-26-whitebait smelt 14 (river fish).

While the levels are lower than many found around the effected areas of Japan they do show the diversity of contamination. The is obviously much left to do to understand and properly deal with the problem. Despite concerns by a variety of experts no effort is underway to screen seafood for strontium or plutonium.

Related:   Cesium Found In Children’s Urine Shows Ongoing Widespread Problem In Japan

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Cancer risk linked to radiation levels in fish species after Fukushima

Two-and-a-half years after Fukushima, many fish species still have highly elevated amounts of radioactive cesium from the stricken plant, including species that Japan exports to Canada, according to the Japanese Fisheries Agency’s tests on fish catches.
And Japanese fish and seafood exports to Canada have grown significantly since Fukushima, with $24 million in exports in 2012, up 20 percent from $20 million in 2010, according to Statistics Canada data.
In July this year, a sea bass caught in Japan had 1,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium—10 times Japan’s ceiling of 100 becquerels per kilo in food. It was the second-highest amount found in a sea bass since the disaster occurred.
And in February, a greenling in the harbour of the Fukushima plant had a record 740,000 becquerels per kilo of cesium—7,400 times Japan’s ceiling. Two in five fish tested in July had detectable levels of cesium 134 or cesium 137, radioactive isotopes released from Fukushima.
On average, fish in the 33,000 tests since March 2011 had 18 becquerels per kilo of cesium. In March and April 2011, fish also had 65 becquerels per kilo of iodine 131. (The Straight didn’t count in these averages any fish caught in Fukushima prefecture, where most species are banned from the market.)
Fish caught far out in the Pacific had an average of two becquerels of cesium per kilo.
The Straight used these levels to determine how much radiation the public has been exposed to in Japan and elsewhere, based on fishery data from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
The average radiation levels are below Japan’s ceiling and Health Canada’s much higher ceiling of 1,000 becquerels per kilo for cesium and iodine 131. But the radiation detected can still cause cancer, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s cancer-risk formula, a leading international standard for forecasting cancer risks from radiation. The What’s more, the EPA formula underestimates cancer impacts because it doesn’t fully include all research on radiation impacts, in the estimate of Daniel Hirsch, a UC Santa Cruz nuclear expert.
(Also according to Hirsch, Health Canada uses a less accepted cancer-risk formula that underestimates the dangers even more.)
Hirsch helped preside over a study of nuclear-power workers in the 1990s that found cancer rates at least six to eight times higher than predicted by official formulas.