In response to reports of variable but high levels of dangerous radiation being emitted from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, today on CBS's "Face The Nation," Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee and senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced he and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Ranking Member on the House Subcommittee on Health of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking for information on how the Agency is ensuring that contaminated radioactive food or other agricultural products are prevented from entering the domestic food supply here in the United States.
Media reports confirm that trace amounts of radiation have been found in spinach and milk up to 75 miles from the distressed reactor prompting Japanese officials to halt shipments of milk from contaminated farms, though officials warn that some products may have already entered the market. The Japanese government has found contamination on canola and chrysanthemum greens in additional areas.
"Radiation can pose a dire threat to our food chain, and it is imperative we monitor all food imports and agricultural products from Japan, as well as seafood harvested from areas that might be contaminated from radiation," said Rep. Markey. "We have to ensure nuclear fallout doesn't defile our food chain."
"We don't want to see the people of Japan suffer any more due to radiation contamination from the damaged nuclear power plants, but we also don't want the danger spread to America," said Rep. Pallone. "Radioactive particles are an insidious threat that can enter the food chain in so many different ways, resulting in contaminated products on the dinner tables of American families. We should take all precautions to prevent that from happening and we should do it now."
In the wake of the nuclear emergency in Japan, several countries, including South Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines have stepped up efforts to ensure that produce and seafood imported from Japan are checked for radiation. The European Union has also advised all member states to check levels of radioactivity in food imports from Japan. Russia has begun testing Pacific Ocean fish and other sea life for radiation on Friday in the wake of the nuclear crisis.
In the letter today, the lawmakers ask for additional information from the FDA on the monitoring and testing of animal and plant products for the presence of radiation and the federal standards that exist to protect the public from consuming contaminated food.