Radiation fears spark boom in seaweed and mung bean sales

Cara Bjornson and other staff members at The Community Farm Store recommend foods like kelp and miso as part of an anti-radiation diet. - Krista Siefken
Cara Bjornson and other staff members at The Community Farm Store recommend foods like kelp and miso as part of an anti-radiation diet.
— image credit: Krista Siefken

Sea vegetables and nettles and mung beans.

They’re just a few of the interesting items flying off the shelves at Duncan’s Community Farm Store.

Because despite repeated assurance by health officials that West Coasters are not at risk of radiation from Japan, the fact is many Cowichanians are skeptical.

And they’re protecting themselves by stocking up on everything from liquid potassium iodide to the contents listed on the Community Farm Store’s anti-radiation diet list.

Store owner Nicolette Genier said a slew of people started showing up at the organic outlet on Sunday, asking about iodine and stocking up on iodine-rich seaweed.

“Next thing you know, all the seaweed has been swept off the shelves,” Genier said. “People were in the beginning stages of feeling afraid. We decided it warranted some research right away, so people could feel empowerment rather than fear.”

That fear stems from the natural and nuclear disasters that have plagued Japan since March 11.

Radiation reaching Canada’s West Coast had been pegged at “minute” levels by Tuesday, but B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Perry Kendall, says the consumption of iodide tablets is not necessary.

“Even if radiation from Japan ever made it to British Columbia, our prediction based on current information, is that it would not pose any significant health risk,” he said last week.

Sybille Sanderson, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s acting general manager of public safety, pointed out the public safety department had not received any calls about radiation as of Friday.

“Yesterday, my staff and I participated in a conference call hosted by EMBC (Emergency Management B.C.) with doctors and scientists with expertise in radiation issues,” she added.

“We were reassured that this is not, and is not expected to be, an issue for us.”

But Genier said anti-radiation foods are the same fare recommended for cleansing, cancer prevention and optimal health.

And it’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Even if the situation doesn’t come to anything in Japan, even if it doesn’t affect us, this is the time we’re living in: nuclear plants are everywhere, and humans are fallible,” she said.

“We can’t put a lot of stock and faith into projected statements like, ‘By all means the public will be kept safe.’ We sure wish there was no such thing as nuclear power, but once again we’re facing the result of putting economics before common sense.”

Genier found during her research that those who survived Hiroshima and Chernobyl were those with a long history of eating things such as miso and seaweed.

And eating healthily is always recommended.

“There’s no such thing as junk food — it’s either junk or it’s food,” said Genier.

“We would never advocate a diet just because you’re scared of something, but this is about strength and resilience and clear-thinking, and that’s what we need to be inhabitants of this planet right now.

“It’s not a fad, it’s a way of life. And your life may depend on it.”



The anti-radiation diet


• Miso (classic food for prevention of radiation damage)

• Sea vegetables and their products (kelp and dulse are excellent natural sources of iodine and much safer than drinking iodine or eating potassium iodide)

• Nettle infusions (high in iodine and other nutrients)

• Reishi mushrooms (reduces damage from radiation)

• Burdock root (removes radioactive isotopes from the body)

• Orange and dark green vegetables (kale, spinach, collards, sweet potatoes, winter squash to reduce damage from radiation)

• Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc, protects cells from radiation damage)

• Dried beans (mung beans and lentils, etc, contain protease inhibitors known to block and prevent the formation of tumour cells)

• Black and green teas (boast radio-protective effects whether taken before or after exposure to radiation)

— The Community Farm Store

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