GOOD

Feast Your Eyes: Radioactive Wasabi

Japanese authorities update the list of contaminated foods while the FDA tests produce at U.S. ports.


As contaminated water leaks into the ocean from the the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, and the soil near the plant tests positive for plutonium, Japanese authorities have updated the list of the nation's contaminated foods.

Milk, spinach, and other leafy greens grown in Miyagi and neighboring prefectures were already known to contain elevated levels of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137, but now 99 more products have tested positive for radioactive contamination—although most still at levels considered safe to eat for everyone but infants and pregnant women.


According to NPR, wasabi (shown above in its raw state) had some of the highest recorded levels, exceeding legal guidelines for iodine-131. Other more unusual foods on the list included chrysanthemum leaves (shungiku), which are eaten in salads, and mizuna, or mustard leaves.

As the New York Times explained last week, the movement of radioactive contamination through the food chain is complex and hard to predict. Big edible leaves are initially susceptible, as are the thyroid glands of livestock such as cows and goats (and hence their milk). Radioactive iodine, with its extremely short half-life, is only dangerous for the initial couple of weeks following a leak, but cesium is much longer lasting and can accumulate in an ecosystem for decades, depending on the type of soil—crops grown in sandy soil accumulate more radioactivity—wind direction, and rainfall.

F. Ward Whicker, an expert in radioecology, described the difficulty in predicting how radiactivity will move through the food chain, and thus the stupidity of creating blanket import bans:

There is an extremely complex interaction between the type of radionuclide and the weather and the type of vegetation. There can be hot spots far away from an accident, and places in between that are fine.

\n

For now, the FDA is stopping all produce imported from the affected Japanese prefectures at U.S. ports for testing. So if it's on the shelves, it should be safe to eat.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user CeeKay via NPR.

Articles
via

Seventy-five years ago, on January 27, 1945, the Soviet Army liberated the Auschwitz concentration camp operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland.

Auschwitz was the deadliest of Nazi Germany's 20 concentration camps. From 1940 to 1945 of the 1.3 million prisoners sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million died. That figure includes 960,000 Jews, 74,000 non-Jewish Poles, 21,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and up to 15,000 other Europeans.

The vast majority of the inmates were murdered in the gas chambers while others died of starvation, disease, exhaustion, and executions.

Keep Reading
Culture
via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

The phrase "stay in your lane" is usually lobbed at celebrities who talk about politics on Twitter by people who disagree with them. People in the sports world will often get a "stick to sports" when they try to have an opinion that lies outside of the field of play.

Keep Reading
Culture
via Stu Hansen / Twitter

In a move that feels like the subject line of a spam email or the premise of a bad '80s movie, online shopping mogul Yusaku Maezawa is giving away money as a social experiment.

Maezawa will give ¥1 million yen ($9,130) to 1,000 followers who retweeted his January 1st post announcing the giveaway. The deadline to retweet was Tuesday, January 7.

Keep Reading
Business