Saturday, May 7, 2011
ARE FUKUSHIMA CUCUMBERS SAFE?
I just checked my blog statistics for search keywords, and found this exact phrase: "Are Fukushima cucumbers safe?" I have been thinking about cucumbers lately anyway, so this prompted me to address the issue.
A few days ago, while involved in my daily reading of The New York Times, and as always, checking on the situation in Japan, I came across an interview with a Fukushima Prefecture farmer. He was not farming inside the evacuation zone, but nearby. (In the Nakadori area which is the agricultural center of the prefecture). He was saying that he had to throw out his entire crop of cucumbers because no one would buy them. How sad. Having worked with small farmers much of my professional career, I know how devastating the loss of an entire crop can be. And growing some vegetables myself, I know what hard work it is, with so many climatic and wildlife risks involved. And on top of all this, who needs radiation?
But could his cucumbers have been contaminated with radiation, even tens of kilometers from the evacuation area? Yes, they could have been. The radiation waste is spreading much further than the evacutation area, though at lower levels, and any growing vegetables absorb and concentrate such toxic substances.
Back on April 28, I blogged "The Biggest Threat in the U.S. Food Supply." Wait - you are asking what this has to do with Fukushima cucumbers. Well, it does. Radiation in Fukushima cucumbers would be one of those longer term type of hazards in Japan's supply, especially relevant to people who are younger - and particularly children, who will have several decades of life ahead of them. But even then, someone would have to eat radiation-contaminated cucumbers regularly for a while before they were affected. How long it would take, would depend on how badly contaminated they were, and the eater's own age and health.
But take Salmonella bacteria in cucumbers (as occurred in the U.S. food supply - see Post of May 3). If cucumbers in Japan were carrying Salmonella, eating just half a contaminated cucumber could be enough to cause a case of food poisoning.
So particularly if you are older, I would not worry about eating a few Fukushima cucumbers. But wash it well and peel it, and don't eat a cucumber a day for several months.
To your good health,