Radiation fears cause shortages of iodine, drive demand for seaweed

While the struggle to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants goes on, reports are coming in from Brooklyn – more than 6,600 miles away from the threat of radiation release – that upscale neighborhood grocery shelves have been emptied of potassium iodide. There has also been a run on kelp and combu, seaweed-based, iodine-rich foods.

News may travel fast, but scare stories get out ahead.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to counter panic buying (which got a big boost when the Surgeon General said stocking  up on iodide was a sensible precaution): “At this time, the US Government is not recommending that residents of the United States or its territories take KI [potassium iodide], even as a preventative measure. According to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, all the available information continues to indicate that Hawaii, Alaska, the US Territories, and the US West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.” Presumably, Brooklyn on the US East Coast is safe as well.

The FDA is also moving to allay fears of radiation contaminating the US food supply. While 60% of US imports from Japan are food products (seafood, snacks, and processed fruits and vegetables), they represent less than 4% of the US imported food supply.  Products that were in transit before the first plant explosion are not a concern. The earthquake and tsunami  halted most production (and exports) well before the nuclear accident. You can read more on the FDA radiation threat assessment and countermeasures here.

Going forward, the FDA is working with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to measure and monitor for radiological contamination as Japan resumes exports. The FDA is monitoring all records for imports from Japan, which mostly travel to the US by vessel, reaching the US in about eight days.

In other words, the FDA is looking at the same data sources as Datamyne. Our US bill of lading database  can supply information on Japanese exporters to the US, the  US importers they ship to, and past shipments of products that may be at risk in the future, as well as alternate sources for products, from potassium iodide to seafood, whose supply and demand will be affected by news from Japan. Ask us to show you how.

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