Washington, D.C. – Radiation from the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan has reached the shores of the U.S., Europe and other nations far beyond Asia’s borders. In response, a consumer watchdog is asking for Congressional oversight. National consumer organization Food & Water Watch wants regulatory agencies to roll out a plan for radiation monitoring and soil and water testing here as soon as possible to protect U.S. citizens, and children in particular, who are especially susceptible to the impact of foodborne exposure to radioactive materials.
Today Food & Water Watch sent a letter to President Obama, heads of federal agencies, and Congressional leaders noting that the agencies responsible for regulating our food— the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—have done very little to detail specific ways in which they are responding to the threat of radiation in food.
“There have been several serious nuclear accidents in the last four decades, but food regulators have not caught up with the threat. Now’s the time to catch up,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.
Food & Water Watch is asking for a comprehensive and transparent plan to monitor and test for radiation, and expand the monitoring program into agricultural regions of the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should increase its monitoring of air, water, and precipitation, as well as step up monitoring of radiation in milk. The data generated should be used to design sampling programs for soil, water, animals and crops in areas affected by radiation.
The group also believes imports from Japan should be halted. The U.S. imported around 150 million pounds of food from Japan last year, including nearly 600,000 pounds of crab and anchovies and nearly 5 million gallons of bottled water, soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages containing water — products that may be potentially higher risk if contamination continues to spread to the ocean and fresh water sources.
The group, which has been asking Congress to not cut food and water protections from the federal budget, is now asking for additional spending on food inspections in light of the disaster.
“We need more food and water protections, not less,” said Hauter. “Disasters like this highlight just how vulnerable our food and water can be. We should no longer take safe food and water for granted.”
Contact: Darcey Rakestraw, 202-683-2467; drakestraw(at)fwwatch(dot)org.