Is Japanese Food Safe?

Japanese mushrooms

The disaster at the Fukushima Daichi plant gave a good portion of East Japan a dusting of radiation, which at the time of the event contaminated several parts of the food supply.

Several hits to my site from search engines have been queries about radiation levels in the food and if it’s safe to eat or not. So I thought I would post about it. I’m no expert, mind you, but I can give you what information I do know.

Any food you find in a supermarket and restaurants will have passed the government’s screening process for radiation and will be within the legal limit.

The legal limit? That doesn’t mean anything to me.

Well, to give you an idea about what it does mean: the Japanese government’s limit for radiation in food is now twenty times stricter than either the E.U. or the U.S.’s regulations.

See article here.

To give you some perspective, much of the food that would be banned from shelves in Japan because it does not pass radiation screening can be shipped to either and be considered perfectly safe.

There is a food that you may encounter that doesn’t go through government screening though. Eating wild mushrooms can already be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. You run the risk of getting lethally poisoned or a nasty case of diarrhea at best. But in Japan, even the safe ones are not safe. Mushrooms soak in Cesium-134 like a sponge, at a pace 10,000 times that of plants. While domestically grown mushrooms are grown indoors (and passed government screening,) wild mushrooms caught the full dose during the meltdown.

And it’s not just the Fukushima meltdown either. Some wild mushrooms tested in Northern Japan have been found to contain radiation above the legal limit, but tests show a completely different kind of radiation from the meltdown. This radation was found to be from Soviet and Chinese nuclear weapon tests in the 40’s and 60’s, as well as the Chenobyl disaster. The radiation just lingered around for that long, and because mushrooms are radiation magnents, they sucked it up. It was just that no one bothered to test their presence in the food supply until now.

See article here.

Going into the mountains to pick mushrooms is a pastime in Japan, one that at present poses a health risk if the mushrooms are consumed. Though the vast majority of restaurants are screened, if you go to a tiny little mom and pops in Northeast Japan, they may just use wild mushrooms in their dishes. It’s not that they are evil dealers of misery and death, it’s just that the mushroom issue isn’t wildly known in Japan. They’re just serving you what they think is a local treat.

But now you know better. So be a smart traveler (or resident) when you come, and stay away from those wild mushrooms.

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10 Comments on “Is Japanese Food Safe?”

  1. Andrew Friend
    July 15, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Thanks for the info, good to know!

  2. VivianaAyre
    July 15, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    This was definitely a good post to catch! I want to return to Japan some day, and I’ll definitely keep that in mind.

  3. samokan
    July 16, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    I really love mushrooms , so this is really a really helpful information , thanks for sharing it.

  4. Andrew
    July 17, 2013 at 10:59 pm #

    Reblogged this on An Easy Distance and commented:
    This is an excellent brief write up from a fellow blogger about radiation contaminated food here in Japan. Also, completely justifies my lifetime moratorium on mushrooms…

  5. En Route to Awesome
    July 30, 2013 at 4:13 am #

    Holy crap… Thanks for the reassurance on the supermarket foods, but damn I’m paranoid about the amount of shiitakes I shovel down now. Dairy was my big concern, but from the sounds of things it’s fairly safe.

    I just figure there’s only so much damage I can do in two years, so hopefully we’ll come out of it okay at the end. That and, I’m Australian, so I’m going to get cancer anyway. It’s just something we do.

  6. WeAreWhatWeEat
    October 1, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    If you cannot avoid Japanese produce totally, the safest foods are non-animal products (vegan), aside from mushrooms and root veggies. The animal products have much more radioactive waste in them than the vegan products, because of bioaccumulation up the food chain, making milk a bad choice, and of course Pacific fish are a bad choice: especially if the fish is a carnivore too. Pacific tuna is a must-miss. And you are right, mushrooms are one of the veggies that are not good to eat anymore.

    However, if you search carefully, I bet you can find products from the Southern Hemisphere or at least from Europe in almost all food groups, in the supermarkets in any big city. Keep in mind though, don’t buy mushrooms or animal products from the regions hardest hit from Chernobyl, either. Unfortunately this stuff lasts for an extremely long time.

  7. birdicatt
    November 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Wow! Thanks for the info. I happen to love mushrooms. I’ll definitely remember this when I visit Japan next year. Been over 20 odd years since my last visit and I still remember the shabu-shabu we had and yep, we did do lots of mushrooms!

    • introvertnathan
      November 4, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

      Yup, just be careful about an little restaurants shrooms. The big places ones should be safe though.

      • birdicatt
        November 4, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

        Thanks! 🙂

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