Diners Want to Know: Is Sushi Safe?

Diners Want to Know: Is Sushi Safe?

Food & Drink

Diners Want to Know: Is Sushi Safe?

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Restaurants on the West Coast are now experiencing what eateries in the Gulf region (and elsewhere) have experienced since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. They’re getting questions from customers about the safety of their seafood.

In many California restaurants today, diners want to be reassured they’re not eating sushi or other fish that has been tainted by radiation in the wake of the crisis in Japan—especially since officials recently detected increased levels of radioactive iodine in fish caught 50 miles south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

We’ve even seen concern on the East Coast of the U.S. with chefs such as Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York making use of radiation detectors.

 Restaurateurs in L.A. and elsewhere have a simple message to patrons: the fish they’re serving, including sushi, is safe—and the overwhelming majority of it now comes from other areas of the world. Fishing has been banned near the Japanese nuclear plant and most of the fishing industry in the area has been decimated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and is no longer functioning.

As reported by Betty Hallock in the L.A. Times, Los Angeles-based International Marine Products has been testing fish at Radiation Safety Engineering in Arizona. IMP says tests have not shown any iodine-131 (or radioiodine) in fish.

Despite reassurances, some seafood purveyors say demand has slowed in recent weeks. Restaurants and their customers need to realize that a sense of panic is unwarranted, say fish processors. There’s nothing coming from the contaminated area of Japan right now, and everything that is coming in from Japan is subjected to rigorous testing by the FDA before it finds its way into restaurants.

As those in the fishing industry in the Gulf could tell them, that doesn’t always satisfy the skeptics.

Photo: Fish at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Credit: EPA/Stephen Morrison.

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