Physician and environmentalist Dr Helen Caldicott says Australians should beware of buying any food products from Japan, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Nobel-prize nominated Australian physician made the comment at a public meeting in Katoomba last Wednesday (30 May 2012), organised by the Blue Mountains Food Co-op. She said the meltdown of three reactors at Fukushima and subsequent explosions at the plant had resulted in the release of massive amounts of radiation into the atmosphere and ocean, even far greater than released in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
The accident was rated two and a half to five times worse than Chernobyl, making Fukushima the worst industrial accident of all time. Of particular relevance to Australians is that the uranium in the Fukushima plant came from Australia, she said.
Radioactive elements such as iodine, caesium and strontium had been released into the food chain across Japan, and were being circulated by wind and rain and then concentrated in the food chain. Elevated levels of radioactivity had been found in food products from as far south as Okinawa, she said. As well, products from less contaminated regions were being mixed with more contaminated ones, so that consumers had no idea how dangerous foods from any part of Japan might be.
“Once radioactive elements enter the body, you can’t get rid of them, and they can trigger mutations that lead to cancer, over a time scale from two up to 70 years.”
Many foods from Japan are popular with Australian consumers, and are on many supermarket shelves. These include rice, shitake mushrooms, green tea, soy milk, soy sauces, miso, udon and soba noodles, nori and other foods from the sea.
She said fish were at particular risk, with reports of contaminated tuna being caught as far away as the coast of California. While the northern and southern hemispheres have separate air circulatory systems, that is not the case with the oceans, she said, and contaminated fish could migrate throughout the Pacific, including to Australia.
Dr Caldicott also warned that foods from many parts of Europe were contaminated still from the Chernobyl disaster - and would continue to be so for hundreds of years.
“In Germany there are wild boar so contaminated they almost glow in the dark, and have to be disposed of like nuclear waste,” she said.
“The safest solution for Australian consumers is to buy foods grown in Australia.”