There is a definite unease in the market with respect to the possible influence of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima following the tsunami of 11 March 2011. To what extent will fish and other seafood be contaminated with radioactive isotopes (such as caesium-137)?
From the moment the incident became known, the federal food agency, at the request of the European Commission, began carrying out strict checks on seafood products from Japan. Thankfully these are not great in number. Japan is a strong net-importer of fish and fish products, and only very occasionally are Japanese products re-exported. Japanese delicacies and specialities do circulate in small quantities through Japanese restaurants, but this does not include fresh fish or similar products.
The fish stocks of Alaska, such as wild salmon and Alaska Pollack, are being called into question. The American authorities are keeping a careful eye on water quality. Based on knowledge of currents in the Pacific Ocean, the contaminated waters are expected to arrive at the western coast of America by the end of this year or in 2015. Here and there slight rises in radioactivity have been measured, but this could just as easily be the result of fluctuations in the natural background radioactivity that is always present in seawater.
Fish caught in the immediate vicinity of Japan could be problematically contaminated. However, it is not expected that the large Alaskan fish stocks will experience negative influences worse than the radioactive contamination of air traffic or even land transport.
Pittman Seafoods has had fish that was caught before and shortly after the disaster screened for radioactivity. The fish were caught in the supply zone closest to Fukushima (1,500 km from the place of the disaster). No increase in radioactivity could be detected in the analysis. A slight decrease was actually detected. Any measured radioactivity was in fact part of the normal background radioactivity that is naturally present in the ocean.
Of course, the European Union carried out its own screening at the border inspection posts, but, in addition to this, our suppliers also screened the first fish caught after the disaster themselves for radioactivity. Checks continue to be carried out by the foreign authorities (health inspection based on origin). To date, we have also observed no cause for alarm from the RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Feed and Food).
In our country, a total of 91 samples were analysed by the FAVV in 2011, 103 in 2012 and 36 in the first trimester of 2013. All results comply with the EU Commission Implementing Regulation of 26/10/12.
The only initiatives undertaken in Europe in the past were focused on products from Japan itself (including seafood and vegetables). Of these products, a certain percent had to be tested prior to being exported to Europe. Pittman has also followed up on this but observed no apparent risk with respect to the types of products we supply. We can therefore conclude that there is no cause for concern.