Cayman food safe from radiation

 

Consumers in Cayman do not have to worry about buying food
contaminated with radiation as a result of the nuclear power plant crisis in Japan, but some
items from the disaster-stricken country will disappear from shelves for a
while.

Rosalind Robinson, marketing manager at Kirk Supermarket,
said every Japanese product it sells is safe.

“We do carry some products from Japan, including seaweed, teriyaki
sauces, sesame oils, pickled ginger, soups, etcetera, all produced and shipped
before the nuclear incident,” she said. “We have taken a decision not to bring
in any more products from Japan
in the meantime for obvious safety reasons.”

Foster’s Food Fair does not import any Japanese products,
according to their spokesperson.

Fears of radiation contaminating food supplies following the
11 March earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima
nuclear plant in northern Japan
were initially confined to the surrounding area. As time goes on and the
nuclear crisis continues, concern is spreading far beyond Japan’s
borders.  Of particular concern is
seafood from the area because tons of water with low-level radiation are still
being dumped into the sea. Fish caught between Tokyo and the site of the nuclear plant were
recently found to contain elevated levels of radioactive iodine and cesium 137.

Although Japan
is not a major food producer, seafood is one of its most important exports.

Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of renowned New
York seafood restaurant Le Bernadin, who also puts his name to the
Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Blue restaurant, recently bought a radiation
detector for his Manhattan
restaurant. Every food item entering his kitchen has been checked, regardless
of origin.

Luis Lujan, Chef de Cuisine at Blue, said that in Manhattan, shipments of seafood are arriving at the docks
there direct from Japan.
Mr. Ripert has found absolutely nothing of concern, but says the radiation
detector has been a useful means of allaying customers fears.

It is
not yet known whether the same precautions will be taken at Blue. However, Mr.
Lujan said 70 per cent of the seafood served at Blue is locally caught. The
remainder comes from Canada,
Maine or fish farms; none comes from that
region of Asia.

“Any
food we are selling in Blue is risk-free,” he said, adding that because food
imports to Cayman are arriving from the US, they have all had to be FDA or USDA
approved before being shipped here, which makes the whole issue of radiation
contamination in our food much less of an issue.

Other
seafood in Cayman also appears safe.

Mark
Nightingale of Progressive Distributors, which supplies hotels, restaurants and
some supermarkets, said that its seafood is sourced from Central and South America and everything they import has already
passed FDA requirements, so they will not be cancelling or changing any orders
in light of the nuclear scare.

What
may still might be cause for concern into the future are migratory fish, should
they be carrying radiation.

Albacore
tuna, one of the most widely consumed types of seafood in the US, is a highly
migratory species. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, “Pacific
albacore … typically begin an expansive migration in the spring and early
summer in waters off Japan that continues through the late summer into inshore
waters off the US Pacific coast, and ends in late fall and winter in the
western Pacific Ocean.”

The
timing could hardly be worse: the tuna currently in Japanese waters potentially
have a few more weeks to absorb radiation before they begin making their way
across the ocean to the west coast of the US. By the time they reach the
other side of the Pacific Ocean, radiation
fears will likely have subsided. If these same tuna are then caught in US
waters, being outside of the geographic area under scrutiny, any contamination
could go undetected.

TOPstory.jpg

Chef Eric Ripert as he holds a radiation detector used to scan fish at his midtown restaurant Le Bernadin in New York.
Photo: AP
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