Friday, March 18, 2011

Bummer! Sushi Restaurants Drop Japan Fish From Menus on Radiation Fears

Now this is an indication of what is seriously worrying people everywhere in the world: Sushi restaurants actually dropping japanese fish from their menus. For all those who are unaware, sushi is a Japanese invented dish made primarily from raw fish (It's more delicious than it sounds) and is a treat for all ages. Some pretty pictures before I elaborate on the sad news:

According to Bloomberg, Sushi restaurants are dropping Japanese fresh food from their menus as a radiation plume released by the country’s damaged nuclear plant heightened fears over possible radioactive contamination. While it is regretable, given the current situation, this could be seen happening as soon as the situation at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Reactor spiralled out of control. With the US actively evacuating its citizens from the country now and frenzied (and totally unnecessary) rush towards buying iodine pills in the US, you cannot help but see what the threat of a nuclear disaster can do to our collective psyche.

With Chernobyl as a glaring example of radiation posioning, who can be blamed for their hysterics? People were sickened with thyroid cancer after consuming milk from contaminated cows, Germany's Down Syndrome rates peaked in the 9 months immediately after the disaster, Neural Tube Defects (spinal defects) increased five-fold in Turkey and let's not forget the mental damage from simply perceiving oneself as contaminated from radiation. The picture below is of the "Red Forest" which was named such because of the ginger-brown colour of the pine trees after they died following the absorption of high levels of radiation from Chernobyl.

Therefore, as this PR Manager from the Mandarin Oriental hotel group succintly put, “Until the situation stabilizes in the country, it seems unlikely that guests will feel comfortable consuming Japanese produce.”

Concerns about radiation levels in food have prompted South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Singapore and the Phillipines to screen food imports from Japan. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also monitoring Japanese food for contamination and weighing steps that “may include increased and targeted product sampling.” No government wants to risk anything especially given the mass fear of radiation poisoning and effects.

However, according to Professor Lam Ching-wan at the Hong Kong University, "The likelihood of fish absorbing sufficiently large quantities of radioactivity from the ocean is negligible, except among larger fish who live long enough to accumulate large amounts." At Chernobyl, the source of radioactivity came from the soil while in the ocean the radioactive dust particles are diluted.

Still, no one is willing to take chances and this is affecting the devastated country's fish traders, who are already suffering from the damage caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. I would recommend everyone to remain calm because calamities happen whether man-made or not. We are all still better off than those workers in the plant who are working day and night at great personal risk to save everyone else from this threat and I hope that they do not go forgotten and their efforts unsung, if and when (God willing!) this crisis passes over.

China, Taiwan and South Korea have a run on buying iodine pills given their proximity to Japan but the US and Canada are an ocean away and panicked people have these pills flying off the shelves. Some Americans are even digesting these prematurely without the advice of a doctor and authorities have reported patients with vomiting, nausea and bleeding symptoms (SIDE EFFECTS!). In addition, there is a booming trade for iodine pills being bought for re-sale at higher prices (Appalling!). Meanwhile, Japan actually needs this medicine for its people and is running short.

Lastly, I would like to give a special place to the following company in my hall of shame:
The Zuma restaurant chain’s Hong Kong branch is substituting most of its imported Japanese products with seafood from Scotland and Indonesia, General Manager Christian Talpo said.
We are not married to any supplier and have the flexibility to switch on a dime,” he said. (Kicking someone when they're down seems to be your style and it's despicable.)
Let us all pray for the Japanese people and that they triumph over these trials. Ameen.

Credits: Bloomberg, Wikipedia, MSNBC, AZCentral
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