Additional information on radiation from Japan

Who is monitoring food in Canada to make sure it is safe from radiation?

Health Canada establishes policies, guidelines, and regulatory standards governing the safety and nutritional quality of all food sold in Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) administers and enforces all federal legislation and associated regulations related to food inspection, agricultural inputs and animal and plant health. The CFIA is also responsible for enforcing all health-based standards and guidelines established by Health Canada.

Health Canada actively supports the CFIA in its mandate for food safety by providing analytical support for testing radionuclides in food samples. Health Canada has developed action levels for specific radionuclides in food. These action levels can be applied during a radiation related emergency.

Products that have levels above Health Canada's action levels for radionuclides would be removed from the market and disposed of properly.  Any inquiries regarding the CFIA's food safety programs or analytical results provided to the Agency should be directed to the CFIA.

How are food products being imported from Japan being monitored?

More than 200 food samples, from Japanese and domestic food products, were tested as part of the CFIA's sampling and testing strategy and all were found to be below Health Canada's actionable levels for radioactivity. This means that we did not find any evidence of radioactivity in any food products at levels of concern. This testing was done during different periods between March 2011 to October 2012 on a variety of products.

Between April 2011 to June 2011, 169 samples of Japanese imports were collected and tested for the presence of radionuclides.  Results are published on the following page:

Domestic milk was also tested during the same period where 34 samples were taken from BC producers and tested for the presence of radionuclides.  Results are published on the following page:

All results were below actionable limits.

In addition Health Canada annually samples and tests food available on the Canadian market place through the Total Diet Study - one of the tests is for radionuclides. This would include imports from Japan. Concurrent to the Total Diet Study samples of 2012 which were collected in Vancouver, further sampling of Japanese imported products from September 2012 to October 2012 was conducted in the Vancouver region. In total, 82 samples of shelf stable products and frozen fish were collected during this time. Results are published on the following page:

Further information on the Total Diet Study, including the results from radionuclide testing, can be found on the following page:

As well, Japanese controls on the export and sale of food products potentially contaminated with radionuclides remains intact.

Is seafood, including migratory fish such as salmon and tuna, safe to eat?

All available data shows that seafood in the Canadian marketplace is well below Health Canada's guidelines for radionuclides in food and is therefore safe to eat with respect to radioactivity.

Health Canada has recently published in peer-reviewed scientific journals the results of studies on fish harvested from the Canadian west coast and from Fukushima and adjacent prefectures in 2013. The first found levels of radioactive caesium in Canadian fish were below the study's detection limits, and both studies found that the fish presented no radiological health concern, even for individuals with high seafood consumption. These articles can be found on the following pages:

In addition, the CFIA collected domestic fish on two separate occasions in August 2011 and February 2012; 12 and 20 samples were collected and tested respectively. All testing was performed in Health Canada labs and the results are published on the following page:

Should Canadians be concerned about the radiation levels on Canada's west coast?

No. Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been sampling ocean waters along a line running almost 2,000 km due west of Vancouver, British Columbia.  The measured concentrations are very low and scientific models predict that they will remain low even when they reach the coastline.  In fact, even the highest predictions point to radiation concentrations far below Health Canada's drinking water guidelines.

Health Canada has also reviewed the available data on radionuclide concentrations in ocean water around the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The amount of radiation being released is far less than the amount released in the early days following the accident. The data indicate peak radionuclide concentrations in sea water in the vicinity of the plant; however these concentrations decrease rapidly with distance from the source. Therefore, given the great distance between Japan and Canada's west coast, Health Canada does not consider these levels to be a health concern for Canadians.

Have the leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant resulted in increased radiation levels here in Canada?

No. The levels of environmental radiation detected in Canada are within the normal range and are not a health concern. Health Canada will continue to monitor radiation levels but they are not anticipated to increase as a result of the leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The great quantity of water in the Pacific Ocean will rapidly disperse and dilute these radioactive materials.

Testing of seawater 30 km off the coast of Japan has shown that the  concentrations of radionuclides have dropped rapidly to very low levels and are of no public health concern. As well, Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been sampling ocean water from Canada's west coast and has confirmed that the measured concentrations of radioactivity are very low.

What actions will the Canadian government take if radiation levels near Canada become a concern?

In the unlikely event that radiation levels in the ocean resulting from the Fukushima nuclear power plant become a concern, Health Canada would provide advice to federal and provincial authorities on any potential health implications for Canadians.

The Government of Canada continues to monitor events in Japan and assess any potential impacts on Canada's food supply.

Canadian officials continue to collect and assess intelligence from Japanese officials, Canada's mission abroad and international authorities. The CFIA and HC have been monitoring the results of Japanese food testing as published on their website. The data is showing the localization of contamination to the Fukushima prefecture.

In addition, Health Canada and Environment Canada continue to monitor the levels of radioactivity in the Canadian environment.

Who is monitoring the situation at Fukushima so that Canadians are informed if another major release occurs?

It is a legal obligation for the Japanese government to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of any new developments as a result of the Fukushima accident. The IAEA disseminates information to all Member States which includes Canada. The global focal point for this information exchange is the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) whose task is to provide the international community detailed and reliable information related to nuclear emergencies and incidents.  Member states are connected to the IEC through a dedicated web-based communication platform linked to international nuclear regulatory bodies and/or emergency response organizations. The IAEA also routinely publishes information on the status of the Fukushima accident and recovery efforts on its public website

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