Since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following the terrible East Japan Earthquake in March last year, radiation has unfortunately been a topic of concern for everyone in Japan. It is therefore not surprising that a team of scientists at Tokyo University, where some of the top minds of Japan can be found, conducted a study on how radiation in seafood can be reduced. However, the results which have been reported in the media recently are not what you may expect from Japan’s premier academic institution.
According to reports, the team at Tokyo University, headed by Professor Shugo Watabe, concluded from their experiments that up to 95% of the radioactive cesium contained in fish can be removed by reducing the fish into very small pieces, close to paste form, and washing it repeatedly with water.
In the experiments, they used drumfish and pacific cod caught off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture during August and September of last year. The drumfish in particular contained 334 becquerels of cesium 134 and 137 per kilogram, but after processing the fish meat in a blender and then soaking and washing it with water three times, the cesium content decreased to 18.1 becquerels, just 5% of the initial amount. Even without using a blender, the cesium content was reduced to approximately one fifth of the original amount. Experiments with the pacific cod also showed that the cesium content decreased by about two thirds after washing once and was further reduced by each repeated washing.
Well, I don’t know about you, but the whole process of chopping fish into small pieces and washing it sounds quite unappealing, and would seem to defeat the purpose of eating seafood. I mean, what are we supposed to do if we want to have some nice fresh sashimi or grilled fish?
Japanese internet users also have not been too impressed with the results of this study and have been posting sarcastic comments such as: “Geez, they really are geniuses at Tokyo University. Ordinary people would never think of something like this,” or “Well, it can always be used as animal feed.” Other people have commented, “Are we supposed to eat only kamaboko fish cake?”, “Isn’t it just as dangerous to wash the cesium down the drain?”, “Does anybody care about taste and flavor?”, “Is this what research funding is being used on at Tokyo University?”
In any case, it’s highly unlikely that eating washed out fish paste will become common practice in Japan. Let’s hope someone comes up with a more appetizing way of removing radiation from seafood.