Dear Foodie: Radioactive Tuna

Dear Foodie,

I enjoy Bluefin tuna at my favorite restaurant. Much to my surprise, I have heard that I need to be concerned about eating Pacific Bluefin tuna due to contamination from the nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011. I don’t want to start glowing in the dark; should I eat this fish?

tuna
Dear Tuned into Tuna,

Great question! It mirrors an age old cosmic question – “can a butterfly fluttering its wings over Texas cause a tornado in Japan”? Given that a great play “Greater Tuna” about life in the third smallest city in Texas has entertained audiences through the ages, that cosmic question involving the great state of Texas is appropriate to your inquiry.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that higher than usual levels of nuclear contamination was found in tuna off the coast of California and was definitively identified as residue from the Japanese nuclear disaster (don’t ask me how they were so sure – the extent of Dear Foodie’s science education ended with cutting up frogs in high school).

A couple of interesting observations came out of this study: first, that these critters are the Diane Nyad’s of their species in their ability to swim long distances, in this case oceans. They apparently begin their journey in life by spawning off the coasts of Japan and the Philippines. Perhaps it is the ambitious among them, but “some” of the big guys migrate east to the California coast where they and their prey find lots of yummy food. They spend the rest of their lives there living off the “fat” of the ocean; and secondly, that the results were surprising. Say what? The scientists apparently didn’t expect to see such high levels of contamination in that these types of large fish typically shed contaminants pretty quickly through natural elimination. More study will be required on that little matter. Hmmm. No worry, say the scientists – the level is way below that considered dangerous to human health. (the Guardian, May 29, 2012) Oh yeah – and I have some ocean front property in west Texas that I can sell you for a good price.

Dear Foodie’s recommendation? Make you own choices on risk. The best answer is to know where your fish comes from – know the fisher-persons…or, take your chances knowing that everything carries some risk. And, volunteer for community theatre and be part of the next production of Greater Tuna. Small town living where trust still counts is starting to sound pretty appealing…even if it is in Texas.