food / travel

Testing Food For Fukushima Radiation, Swiss Find Chernobyl Contamination Instead

Mushroom lovers beware. Health authorities in Zurich recently destroyed 10 tons of Ukrainian mushrooms after determining that the wild fungi contained unacceptable levels of radiation.

ZURICH A food-testing lab in Zurich, Switzerland is sounding the alarm after discovering that a batch of mushrooms shipped from Ukraine contained too much radioactive cesium-137. Ukraine had cleared the mushrooms for export.

The laboratory had been on its toes last year because of the reactor catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan. It ran dozens of tests on various foods from Japan and came up with no radiation-contaminated items. Chemist Rolf Etter was all the more surprised, therefore, to find radiation in food of another provenance – Ukraine – especialle since his team stumbled upon the findings by pure chance. Yet in two of the 14 tests conducted on frozen wild Ukrainian mushrooms, tolerance levels of cesium-137 were well over the acceptable mark. The mushrooms had all been imported by the same company.

The results mean that 25 years after the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl, dangerous levels of radioactivity are still making their way into the food system. Etter said that what surprised him most was that the declared cesium values were three times lower than what was actually found in his lab's tests, and that Ukraine had cleared the shipment for export. "It makes you wonder if those declarations are worth anything at all," he said.

After learning of the results, Zurich authorities destroyed the 10-ton Ukrainian mushroom shipment. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health is now working with its counterparts in Ukraine to ensure that there are no further problems of the sort.

Read the full story in German by Patrick Kühnis

Photo - Timm Suess

*This is a digest story, not a direct translation


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