Canadian food safe from radiation, officials say
Now that radioactive contamination has been found in some Japanese food, Canadian officials say there's little risk on this side of the Pacific, but they're taking steps to keep the food supply safe.
In Japan, contamination originating at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant has been found in vegetables, milk and even tap water.
Anne Trudel, manager of environmental health and safety at Vancouver's TRIUMF nuclear physics lab, says that for now, the risk of tainted food is greatest in the area around the plant.
"Anything that is released, be it to the air or to the water, by the time it gets to us here on the West Coast, it's been diluted significantly and the concentrations are such that they really don't pose a health hazard," she said.
Low levels of radiation from Japan have been detected in B.C., but are not believed to pose a health risk.
Only a small amount -- less than 0.3 per cent -- of Canadian food imports comes from Japan. Some of the products include green tea, scallops and sauces. No fresh fruit or vegetables are imported from Japan.
Trudel says that even low levels of radiation in food can be detected.
"We have an ability to measure at a very sensitive level, and there's a significant gap between the level which we can measure, that very sensitive level, and when it starts to pose a health hazard. There's many factors of ten, or thousand, before that gets to be a concern," she said.
"We can detect potassium-40 in your banana, in your avocado, and we don't worry about eating bananas and avocados."
Radiation in the ocean can contaminate sea life, but experts say there are no fish that migrate from Japan to B.C. waters.
Once exports resume from Japan, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says it will be assessing the potential risk of any food products entering the country.
"There's no concern in Canada right now for food that is imported from Japan, and I think that's really important, especially no concern for people in B.C. or the foods that we get, or the foods that are produced here," said Dr. Bonnie Henry of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.
The BCCDC says there are already small amounts of naturally occurring radiation in Canadian food and water. When it comes to Japanese imports, they'll be working with the CFIA to determine whether the levels are unsafe.
"It would not be allowed into the system here. That's why the CFIA has their programs so that we can make sure we don't consume any added radiation that we don't need to," Henry said.
For more information on radiation concerns, visit the CFIA and BCCDC websites.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Maria Weisgarber