Muttonbirds and malignancy … an encounter with radioactivity raises food safety issues

But was it nuked before flying south?

Spare a thought today for the Busted Blonde, whose observations on this, that and the other can be found at Roarprawn.

Her Christmas joy will be bruised by news of what’s happening – maybe – to muttonbirds.

Their exposure to nuclear radiation has raised concerns about their effects on people who eat them.

And it so happens these creatures rate high in BB’s culinary considerations.

Chances are she will be serving some of ’em for Christmas dinner.

She posted on how she hunts the little buggers just the other day (although she acknowledges that “harvest” more accurately describes her food-gathering activities in this case)-

Hunting is in my blood – not sure if its the Maori, Portuguese or Scottish genes but the reality is I am happy to kill to eat.

I harvest muttonbirds – its not hunting as you know where they are and for a few weeks they dont move and despite very sharp beaks and feet its not a fair competition – hence the distinction.

We harvest for food or food for barter. Our right to harvest muttonbirds is enshrined in legislation the preserve of the descendants of a few families canny enough to strike a deal with the govt over 100 years ago.

Alf recalls an earlier post in which she treated us to advice on how to prepare and cook them.

Well first you have to catch your muttonbird and Bustedblonde did that a while back.

Then you gut it.

Then we did something we have never done before – we boned it out.

And so on…

Catching them is the tricky bit. A few southerners are entitled to do this, and BB happens to be one of them.

Yes, you can buy them, but the bought ones will be salted, and the recipe at Roarprawn is for fresh birds.

But whether fresh or salted seems neither here nor there, on the strength of today’s news that

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is waiting for the findings of a study into how mutton birds may have been affected by radioactivity before advising people not to eat them.

The birds could have been exposed to radioactive material in Japan.

Initial tests on the birds – and on other marine life near the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant – showed extremely high levels of cesium 137.

Alf has no experience of cesium 137, but he understands it is an element that strongly increases the chances of getting cancer.

More to the point of this post –

Muttonbirds are due to return to New Zealand over autumn. They were within 20km of the plant at the time of the tsunami and earthquake on 11 March.

US investigator Josh Adams says preliminary results should be known by April, just as the hunting season gets underway in the Ti Ti islands, off Stewart Island.

This is bound to be vexing news for BB.

It will be fascinating to see if it changes her views on nuclear power.

One of her other posts last year dealt with the benefits of this form of energy.

It was published under the heading What are we waiting for?

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