New device tests food for radioactive content more efficiently

August 31, 2013

By TORU FURUSHO/ Staff Writer

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi Prefecture--Researchers have developed a device that can determine radioactive content levels in fish and other food products without having to destroy them first in order to test them.

The device could prove a possible savior for fishermen and farmers who are suffering due to concern their produce may be contaminated by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Keizo Ishii, a professor of radiological engineering at Tohoku University, and his co-workers introduced their radioactive content detector Aug. 30 at the Ishinomaki Fish Market, where their new apparatus is on loan.

Workers at the market tested the new apparatus on cod, flounder and other fish.

"The new device will allow us to test each single fish and ensure that we are shipping safer products to consumers," said Kunio Suno, the 70-year-old president of the company that operates the fish market. "That could help stop falling fish prices, which have been hurt by harmful rumors (of contamination)."

The device, consisting of a 12-meter-long conveyor belt and sensors underneath, is configured to gauge the weight, size and radioactive content of food samples as they pass over. Thereafter, it automatically sorts the produce or fish by their radioactive content into three categories: up to 50 becquerels per kilogram; between 50-100 becquerels per kg and more than 100 becquerels per kg.

The device can test some 1,400 samples an hour, even if the products differ, the researchers said.

Central government guidelines and current testing methods require food samples to be pulverized, with the exception of rice, to get accurate radioactive content readings.

The Ishinomaki Fish Market will test its fish using both the conventional method and the new device until its use is approved by the central government.

Ishii said he hopes to further calibrate his contamination detector to make it even more precise and offer it to other food producers in need.

By TORU FURUSHO/ Staff Writer
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A worker at the Ishinomaki Fish Market uses the device developed by Tohoku University to test fish for radioactive content in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Aug. 30. (Toru Furusho)

A worker at the Ishinomaki Fish Market uses the device developed by Tohoku University to test fish for radioactive content in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Aug. 30. (Toru Furusho)

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  • A worker at the Ishinomaki Fish Market uses the device developed by Tohoku University to test fish for radioactive content in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Aug. 30. (Toru Furusho)

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