Is Pacific Seafood Safe from Radiation?

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Is Pacific seafood safe from radiation?

(Photo: Clams in a Saffron & Herbed Broth with Pan Fried Crumbs from Everyday Nourishing Foods)

 

Ever since the horrible emergency in Japan, there has been a lot of turmoil over whether Pacific seafood is currently – or in the future going to be – contaminated with radiation from Fukushima. There are a lot of opinions on this subject, and I’ve read myself in circles over it ever since this disaster. While clearly those living close to Fukushima in Japan are by far those with the most concerns, I think it’s a valid question for us to consider what – if any – effect Fukushima could have on us through our environment and/or food.

Because seafood is an important part of a healthy diet according to a traditional, Dr. Price inspired viewpoint, I am loath to cut out this important food unless absolutely necessary.

I don’t feel comfortable giving you a pat answer to this complicated question, but I thought I would share some of the different opinions and information I came across in the hopes that it would help you be more informed. There is so much information out there (and a lot of wild opinions and speculations too), I’m not going to be able to cover everything, but please feel free to add your opinions and other links to the comment section. And don’t miss my resources for Atlantic seafood (for those who remain concerned about Pacific seafood) coming soon.

First, I want to primarily deal with the issue of eating Pacific seafood, however here is a brief overview of different information on radiation in our general environment. For those of us on the West Coast of the U.S., there has been a concern with how much radiation could be falling on us through the air and in our rainwater. I was reading a children’s book to my two girls recently that explained that dust particles from Japan will reach the U.S. in one week, a rather grim reminder of how connected we are to each other – even across a wide ocean.

Negative news on radiation levels on the West Coast

So I guess it’s no surprise that according to this study “ Just days after the meltdowns, I-131 [radioactive iodine] concentrations in US precipitation was measured up to 211 times above normal” and “Highest levels of I-131 and airborne gross beta [radioactive particles] were documented in the five US States on the Pacific Ocean.” This study linked this rise to congenital hypothyroid cases that rose 28% shortly after the disaster.

To further this discouraging vein (especially for those, like me, who live on the West Coast), an article published in 2012 (written by some experts on radiation issues) gave us this information on the short-term impact of Fukushima,

“How much radiation entered the U.S. environment? A July 2011 journal article by officials at Pacific Northwest National Lab in Eastern Washington state measured airborne radioactive Xenon-133 up to 40,000 times greater than normal in the weeks following the fallout. Xenon-133 is a gas that travels rapidly and does not enter the body but signals that other, more dangerous types of radioactive chemicals will follow.

A February 2012 journal article by the U.S. Geological Survey looked at radioactive Iodine-131 that entered soil from rainfall, and found levels hundreds of times above normal in places like Portland, Ore., Fresno, Calif., and Denver, Colo. The same places also had the highest levels of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 in the U.S. While elevated radiation levels were found in all parts of the country, it appears that the West Coast and Rocky Mountain states received the greatest amounts of Fukushima fallout.

On Dec. 19, 2011, we announced the publication of the first peer-reviewed scientific journal article examining potential health risks after Fukushima. In the 14-week period March 20-June 25, 2011, there was an increase in deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control by 122 U.S. cities. If final statistics – not available until late 2014 – confirm this trend, about 14,000 “excess” deaths occurred among Americans in this period.

We made no statement that only Fukushima fallout caused these patterns. But we found some red flags: Infants had the greatest excess – infants are most susceptible to radiation – and a similar increase occurred in the U.S. in the months following Chernobyl. Our study reinforced Fukushima health hazard concerns, and we hope to spur others to engage in research on both short-term and long-term effects.”

Positive news about radiation on the West Coast

That’s pretty depressing news, as reported closer to the actual disaster! On the other side of things, however, both the FDA and grassroots radiation monitoring seem to agree that there aren’t currently (or for the last couple of years been) abnormal radiation levels. The grassroots network is made up of people around the world who have invested in proper radiation meter equipment who turn in their readings. You can follow their map for hourly updates.

On the EPA website you can check out the nearest radiation monitor near your address, which is pretty cool, and see a graph of radiation levels.  According to the Oregon state government, there hasn’t been a significant increase in radiation levels.

And this is a nice transition into our main topic – radiation and Pacific seafood – while there had been a small increase in radiation in seaweed near the California coast two years ago, those levels, as reported in January of this year, have been dropping ever since. 

Why there is concern about radiation from Fukshima

There is good reason to have concern about our sea life and environment. It’s also important to weigh the evidence in deciding what seafood we eat from the Pacific Ocean. Why is there concern? Since the disaster, 300 tons of radioactive water has flowed into the ocean everyday. That’s a problem. But how much of a problem?

Good news about radiation in seafood on the West Coast

Independent results confirm low or no radiation

Let’s start with the good news this time. First, many fisheries, responding to this concern, have sent seafood samples into independent labs to test for radioactive content. Vital Choices (an Alaskan fishery) has so far found none. 

Another company dealing with the customers’ fears about radiation in seafood sent samples to labs with reassuring results.

“It sent seven samples of salmon caught in Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound to a laboratory in Louisiana, at a cost of $1,200. The company released the reports in January and posted the results on its website.
What did it find? Five samples did not register any level of radiation. Two showed very low traces—well below any limits set by the government and consistent with background levels of radiation in common foods, says Knutson.”

FDA testing confirms no need for concern

An FDA update in March 2014 says that our food supply (including seafood) remains safe, and we don’t need to alter our eating habits because of Fukushima.

Even at its worst, radiation levels are very low (bananas could be worse than fish!)

Chris Kresser, a well-respected practitioner of integrative medicine in the real food world, shared his views on this issue in a podcast. He was able to put into perspective the fears of radiation in fish. He put it so well, I wanted to share an excerpt from the transcript.

“There was one large review in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, PNAS, the journal, and it evaluated the health risk of consuming Pacific Bluefin tuna that was caught in the Pacific after the Fukushima event around San Diego, I believe is where the fish were caught were for this study. And the study was done by some researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a couple other organizations around the world, and they’re all independent researchers. There were no conflicts of interest, nobody that was working for the fish lobby! And let me just highlight a few of the findings for you. They estimated that a typical restaurant-sized portion of Pacific Bluefin tuna that was contaminated with radioactive isotopes cesium-134 and cesium-137 contains about 5% of the radiation you’d get from eating one uncontaminated banana and absorbing its naturally occurring radiation.

The really important thing to remember here is that all foods contain radiation because there’s radiation that’s just naturally a part of our planet. Bananas contain much more radiation in them, despite not being contaminated by Fukushima fallout, than a restaurant-sized portion, a 7-ounce portion, of fish. So, the issue is not whether we’re exposed to radiation, because we are, all of us, on a daily basis exposed to radiation in food, just walking around. If we go on a cross-country flight, we’re exposed to radiation. Like every other toxin, the question is what’s the dose? A small amount of toxin we can handle. A large amount of toxin causes problems. That’s really important to keep in mind with this. It is true that cesium-134 and cesium-137, which are these radioactive isotopes, have been found in fish because of Fukushima, but the levels are so low that they’re not going to cause any health problems, even in people who are eating fish at extremely high levels. For example, if you ate three-quarters of a pound a day of this contaminated Bluefin tuna for an entire year, you’d still receive only 12% of the dose of radiation you’re exposed to during a single cross-country flight from LA to New York. That should put it into perspective a little bit. Also, at that same level of consumption, the excess relative risk of fatal cancers would only be two additional cases per 10 million similarly exposed people, and that’s such a low number that in statistics and health there’s really reason to believe that’s no more than chance. And, in fact, statistically significant elevations in cancer risk are only observed typically at doses of radiation that are 25,000 times higher than what you’d expect to be exposed to by eating the three-quarters of a pound a day of Bluefin tuna.”

Bad news about radiation and seafood

That’s the good news. What about the bad news? Here are a couple things to consider.

Certain currents are bringing more radiated water to U.S. coasts now (this started late 2013). While many scientists say the radiated water will be too diluted by the time it reaches us, others disagree. It’s an unknown situation.

Another concern is that different radioactive material is now being leaked from the plant – some of which lasts much, much longer and is considered by some to be even more dangerous.

There is more concern with certain fish that travel extensively, namely tuna and salmon (in 2012 tuna was found to contain elevated radiation levels). Because of the wide traveling habits of these fish, they are more at risk to contain higher amounts of radiation. While the more conservative voices say that there is little to worry about, the more concerned voices point out how unprecedented this situation is, and how little we know for sure. Because of that, there continues to be a push for more testing by the FDA, as well as pro bono testing by a variety of universities and concerned scientists. Because the situation is hardly stable or contained in Japan at this point, the far-reaching future effects of the situation are still unknown, although most research to date is reassuring.

My personal conclusion

Overall, I find that there is a general agreement of reassuring research for those of us in the U.S. But I remain concerned enough to continue to keep track of new information as it comes. For those who simply no longer feel comfortable eating Pacific seafood, I’d like to give you a couple of resources for Atlantic seafood in another post soon to be published. So stay tuned for that!

Other articles of interest on TheNourishingGourmet.com:

Pan-seared Halibut with Melted Cherry Tomatoes and Tarragon (& review of The Nourished Kitchen cookbook)

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

pan-seared halibut with melted cherry tomatoes and tarragon

Tender and moist, halibut is cooked quickly on the stovetop and then graced with the bright flavors of bite-sized tomatoes, gently cooked into a simple, yet flavorful sauce. This is a perfect example of the simple, delicious food that Jenny from Nourished Kitchen produces time and time again.

And that’s why I am thrilled to share this beautiful recipe from her incredible new cookbook (amazon affiliate link), The Nourished Kitchen: Farm-to-Table recipes for the Traditional Foods Lifestyle. This book is a real gem. Truly. Each section helps you know how to serve food from the sea, pasture, garden, field, wild, orchard, range, and larder. It’s real food at its best.

What I love about Jenny’s recipes is that they allow the true flavors of the food to shine. Her writing style is warm, reassuring and poetic, and her photos do justice to the natural beauty of the food without trying to manipulate food into something it is not (can you tell I’m a fan?). The section this recipe comes out of (from the waters) has a variety of dishes I am drooling over and can’t wait to try. This includes Salt-Roasted Clams with Garlic Butter, Whole Mackerel Roasted on Potatoes, and Grilled Sardines with Preserved Lemon Gremolata. Dr, Weston A Price was impressed with the health a seafood-centric traditional diet produced, and we know that there are a variety of nutritional benefits to eating seafood on a regular basis. Jenny’s recipes will certainly help get it on your table.

Nourished kitchen

Special Pre-Order Bonuses

I was lucky enough to get a preview copy, but you can pre-order her book right now! As a cookbook author, let me say this: It really helps authors out when you pre-order, so if you are planning on ordering it, do it now. If you do, you can also email your receipt to nourishedkitchen@tenspeed.com,  no later than April 15 at midnight pacific time, and you will get special access to the cookbook’s membership portal which includes instructional videos, menu ideas, a few sneak peek recipes from the book as well as an exclusive look at recipes that they did not include in the book due to space constraints.

Giveaways

Jenny’s also doing giveaways to promote her book as well, so if you want the chance to win some great things, check it out. 

Virtual Dinner Party

This recipe is part of the virtual dinner party we bloggers are doing in celebration of Jenny’s book. It’s a great opportunity to see some of the beautiful recipes in the book before you buy. Here’s the schedule:

• April 6: Chapter 1: Diana @ My Humble Kitchen
• April 7: Chapter 2: Kresha @ Nourishing Joy
• April 8: Chapter 3: Jill @ The Prairie Homestead
• April 9: Chapter 4: Kimi @ The Nourishing Gourmet (that’s me!)
• April 10: Chapter 5: DaNelle @ Weed ‘Em and Reap
• April 11: Chapter 6: Aubrey @ Home Grown and Healthy
• April 12: Chapter 7: Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship
• April 13: Chapter 8: Tamara and Kelly @ Oh Lardy

And without further ado, here’s this lovely recipe.

Pan-seared Halibut with Melted Cherry Tomatoes and Tarragon
 
Author:
Serves: 4
 
During the first few weeks of summer, tomatoes trickle slowly into the farmers market, a few baskets at a time. Such a short supply after months of cold-weather crops like roots and greens means those first few tomatoes command hefty prices and seem to disappear the instant the market opens. So I wait to purchase tomatoes until late summer, when their newness wears off and baskets at the market overflow with a seemingly continuous supply of marble-sized cherry tomatoes or even the heftier golden Amana tomatoes that can weigh 2 or 3 pounds each. The price of tomatoes falls as the supply increases, and I buy them by the case. I call on close friends and we preserve as much as we can, but I also serve them with nearly every meal—a few dropped into an omelet, roasted with fennel for soup, tossed with greens for salad, and, frequently, as a simple sauce for fish or meat. While creamy white-fleshed fish like halibut pair beautifully with mild flavors, buttery sauces, and a very light introduction of lemon or fresh herbs, they also marry well with more robust and assertive flavors like tomato. I reserve this dish for late in the summer, when bright, ripe cherry tomatoes are both inexpensive and abundant. Once they hit the hot pan, they nearly melt and their flavorful juices concentrate in the heat, becoming syrupy and thick. I like to throw in a handful of tarragon at the very end, though both basil and flat-leaf parsley also work well.
Ingredients
  • 4 (4- to 6-ounce) halibut fillets
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground unrefined sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter (page 59, of book, see below)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
Instructions
  1. Sprinkle the halibut with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Set the fillets on a plate and let them rest a bit while you prepare to cook the fish.
  2. Melt the butter in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter melts, arrange the halibut skin side down in the hot fat and sear for 4 or 5 minutes, until the skin crisps and browns. Flip the fish and continue cooking for another 2 to 3 minutes, until it flakes easily when pierced by a fork. Transfer the halibut to a serving plate and tent it with parchment paper or foil to keep it warm.
  3. To prepare the tomatoes, set the skillet you used to cook the fish over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Toss in the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and translucent, about 6 minutes. Toss in the tomatoes and sauté them with the shallot and garlic until they soften and release their juice, about 2 minutes. Add the tarragon and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
  4. Uncover the waiting halibut. Spoon the melted cherry tomato mixture over the fish and serve immediately.

Clarified Butter
 
Author:
 
Clarifying butter deepens its flavor and color and concentrates its butterfat by removing its milk solids. The process also helps to extend its shelf life. Store clarified butter at room temperature out of direct light, just as you would store olive oil, coconut oil, or any other concentrated fat. Once you’ve removed the milk solids from the butterfat, there’s little risk of spoilage.You can apply high heat to clarified butter in ways that would cause regular butter to scorch. Makes about 12 ounces.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
Instructions
  1. Place the butter in a wide sauté pan set over low heat. Allow the butter to melt slowly. As it heats, froth and foam will gather on top of the liquid butter. Skim this off and discard it. Continue heating the butter until it becomes perfectly clear, about 10 minutes.
  2. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth or a single layer of butter muslin. Pour the melted butter through the cloth and into the bowl. Discard the milk solids in the cloth, then pour the clarified butter into three 4-ounce jars or one 12-ounce jar and cover tightly. Stored in a cool, dark space, the clarified butter will keep for up to 1 year.

 
Reprinted with permission from The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther, (c) 2014.
Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.
Photography (c) 2014 by Jennifer McGruther
Publisher retains all copyrights and the right to require immediate removal of this excerpt for copyright or other business reasons.

Healthy Strawberry Lemonade (Stevia-Sweetened)

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Healthy Strawberry Lemonade

Tart lemons and sweet strawberries, are gently sweetened with stevia in this simple, but lovely strawberry lemonade for a delicious beverage. Lemonade is a very fun and delicious way to get some vitamin C. Strawberries increases the vitamin C content, and adds other antioxidants as well. I like to get my vitamins from food as much as possible, instead of depending on supplements, so this is a great way to give myself a boost of vitamin C. Dr. Price also considered vitamin C content important for a healthy diet!

Lemonade is one of my favorite drinks, but I don’t do well with the usual high sugar content of lemonade, even the more natural ones. Stevia does well with lemon, and doesn’t raise your blood sugar,  so is perfect for my needs (read my back-in-the-ancient-days blog post about my first ventures with stevia-sweetened lemonade as well). This version with strawberries makes it beautiful in color and taste. Another favorite recipe is this Orange Lemonade Sports Drink. It uses just a small amount of raw honey (or you could use organic cane sugar), and is delicious as well. A great option for a stevia-free version. :-)

Disclaimer: Post contains some affiliate links

What stevia brand you use will definitely make a difference.

My current preference is to buy a stevia that is not heavily processed. I used Now Stevia #amazonaffiliate in this recipe. It doesn’t have a bitter taste, and it is specifically made to contain the whole leaf extract, and then is enzymatically treated to remove the any bitterness. It does have a very sweet, but slightly herbal taste, which some may not like as well (though note that in a recipe like this, the lemons and strawberries hide the stevia taste a great deal). A brand that I’ve used with a lot of success that is more processed, but not herbal tasting is NuNaturals. I use stevia so little that I’ve had the same bottle for a couple of years, and I’ve heard they changed the formula around a little recently, but it’s still good, I believe. On the under end of the spectrum is this stevia liquid concentrate that is not processed at all. This will have the strongest taste (I haven’t tried it yet, but will try order a bottle soon to taste-test!). The whole stevia debate is a little beyond the scope of this article, but I will be writing the arguments surrounding stevia soon. So stay tuned for that!

If you don’t want to use stevia in your strawberry lemonade, I recommend making simple syrup with organic cane sugar, or a honey simple syrup, and using that to sweeten to taste. It will be delicious that way as well.

Strawberry Lemonade (Stevia-Sweetened)
 
Author:
Serves: 8
Prep time:
Total time:
 
How sweet your strawberries are will make a difference in how much stevia you need to use. Start low, and creep up until it’s just right (it’s easy to overdo stevia, as it’s so concentrated!). I used my Blendtec to blend this, if you find it too pulpy, or seed-y when using a regular blender, you can always pour through a fine sieve before adding the 5 cups of water.
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces strawberries (if frozen, defrosted), about 15 large strawberries, stemmed if fresh
  • 2 cups of water
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 cups of water
  • 30-50 drops liquid stevia
Instructions
  1. Combine the strawberries, 2 cups of water, and lemon juice in a blender. Blend until very smooth.
  2. Add the five cups of water, and then sweeten to taste with the liquid stevia, starting low and working up, stirring well before taste-testing. Serve chilled or over ice.

 Other Beverage Recipes on The Nourishing Gourmet: 

Simple Herb Garlic Butter

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

SO simple, but incredibly delicious herb garlic butter

Heavenly. This is such a simple recipe to make, but puts together a couple of my favorite things: butter (from grassfed cows), fresh herbs and garlic. The herbs add such a great freshness to the rich butter, and the garlic – a delicious savory shot of spiciness that only garlic can bring. Whirled together this spread is absolutely to die for on crusty bread, and is a lovely touch for serving to guests.

There are so many uses for it! It can be used to top pan-fried steaks, or as a delicious finish to fish or chicken. Toss with boiled pasta of any kind, top rice, or top steamed or roasted vegetables. Anywhere you usually use butter in savory foods, use this. It lasts two weeks (if you don’t eat it all), so having it on hand to use in different preparations works well.

This simple formula is easy to play with – use whatever herbs are your favorite, or you have on hand. I recommend pairing a couple different kinds, if possible.

Butter from grassfed cows is high in vitamin A and K2, and is an important part of a diet based on Dr. Weston A Price’s research. I used unsalted Kerrygold butter (#affiliatelink). Every single time I make a recipe like this with such high quality butter, I am reminded that every thing tastes better with butter, and even more better with the really good butter.

The other thing that is great about this recipe is that the fresh herbs and garlic add their own nutrition, as well as flavor. Herbs are surprisingly nutritious.

Good food is often good for you. Win-win. Enjoy.

Simple garlic herbed butter

Simple Herb Garlic Butter
 
Author:
Prep time:
Total time:
 
If you don’t want your butter to turn bright green like mine (which I think lovely), you can chop your herbs and garlic by hand, and gently stir into the butter. Makes about 1 cup.
Ingredients
  • ½ pound unsalted butter, room temperature (from grassfed cows, preferred)
  • 1 cup of loose herbs (such as parsley, chives, thyme, dill, oregano)
  • ½ teaspoon unrefined salt (skip if using salted butter)
  • 1-2 smallish garlic cloves (use only one if not a huge garlic fan), peeled and roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Prep the herbs, by rinsing and spinning or gently shaking/patting dry. Remove the stems from herbs like parsley and thyme. Parsley is a great filler herb, as it is fresh, but not to strong in flavor. I used ½ parsley, and then filled the rest with chives, thyme, and dill. Beautiful. Put in the food processor, and pulse until the herbs and garlic are finely minced
  2. Add the butter, and blend until the ingredients are well combined. Chill for a couple of hours to meld flavors. Then, enjoy with abandon at room temperature.