Published On: Wed, Apr 6th, 2011

Fears About Irradiated Milk In the US Grow

Fears.About.Irradiated.Milk.Grow.in.US

Condensed from an article published in the NY times March 31, 2011

Fears About

Irradiated Milk

In the US Grow

By JESSE McKINLEY and WILLIAM NEUMAN

By scientific standards, the radiation found over the last week in batches of milk on the West Coast appeared minuscule. But the mere mention of any contamination in the most motherly of beverages stirred concern in people like Marilyn Margulius, an interior designer from Berkeley, Calif., who called her daughter on Thursday and told her not to let her 10-year-old son drink milk.

“There is a big trust issue with this,” said Ms. Margulius, 71, who was shopping at a Whole Foods Market in Berkeley.

“The health department does not want people to panic. Milk is probably O.K., but who the heck knows?”

Initial Alarm Over Irradiated Milk

The alarm was sounded on Wednesday, when federal officials announced that tests had detected a trace amount of iodine 131 — a radioactive byproduct released by leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan — in a sample taken on March 25 in Spokane, Wash. The level of radiation was tiny, far below the “intervention level” set by federal officials. Jason Kelly, a spokesman for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said the positive sample came from a gallon of pasteurized whole milk produced at the Darigold plant in Spokane, which processes milk from a number of farms in Washington and Idaho.

Confirmation of Milk Irradiation

The California health department also confirmed Wednesday that it had detected a tiny amount of radioactive iodine in a sample collected Monday from a dairy in San Luis Obispo County on the state’s Central Coast.Milk in San Luis Obispo is regularly tested because the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is on the county’s southern coast. Officials said that monitoring — done weekly since the crisis began — was accountable for finding the contamination.

Dr. Penny Borenstein, the county’s public health officer, said that the tests would continue and that dairy products would continue to be safe. “The situation in Japan continues to evolve, but we are still 6,000 miles away.”

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