Democrat worried about tainted seafood from Japan's nuclear meltdown

A House Democrat is asking federal regulators what they plan to do about Pacific seafood tainted with radiation from last year's meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. 

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) noted in letters to two agencies Friday that bluefin tuna recently caught near San Diego were found to be tainted with radiation — not enough to exceed legal limits for consumption, but enough to arouse suspicion.

"Given the long half life of some radioactive isotopes, it does raise questions regarding the government's long-term efforts in monitoring both seafood imported from Japan as well as those caught in Pacific waters," Markey wrote to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A scientist at Stanford University commented recently that the amount of radioactive cesium-134 measured in the fish, which apparently swam through contaminated waters off Japan, should not cause alarm.

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"It's become clear that some people feel that any amount of radioactivity ... is bad and they'd like to avoid it," Daniel Madigan told Reuters.

"But compared to what's there naturally … and what's established as safety limits, it's not a large amount at all," he said.

Markey, the leading Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior member on Energy and Commerce, posed a series of questions to the FDA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration on regulators' response to the Fukushima crisis and its impact on the U.S. food supply.

He asked specifically for "a listing of all instances of species found to have elevated levels of radioactive isotopes" since Fukushima and any plans to study the event's long-term impact on Pacific seafood.

"Time spent on the West Coast should include watching Pacific Blue waves washing up on shore, not tainted bluefin tuna," he said.

"The importance of our seafood stocks and the jobs they support require vigilance when monitoring the half-life of radiation present in fish and marine debris."

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