• ‘Building Food Security in Alaska’ report released during Alaska Food Festival and Conference

14-09-17_building-food-security-in-ak_exec-summary-recommendations_Page_01

The release of a new report, “Building Food Security in Alaska,” was one of the highlights of the recent Alaska Food Festival and Conference (Nov. 7-9 at the University of Alaska Lucy Anchorage Cuddy Center). This is one of the first comprehensive statewide food security reports compiled for Alaska.

The report was written by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg of the Crossroads Resource Center in Minneapolis, which has done six in-depth statewide food assessments over the past five years and 14 statewide food assessments overall. The report was commissioned by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, with collaboration from the Alaska Food Policy Council.

The Crossroads Resource Center website provides this summary of the report:

Like most other states, Alaska imports about 95 percent of the food it purchases. Yet this state is more distant from prevailing food production regions than other states. Alaskans feel a special sense of vulnerability. Despite a rich history in dairy and cattle production, most of these foods are now imported. Much of the arable farmland has been paved over by development. Moreover, Alaskans who wish to purchase some of the $3 billion of seafood harvested from its ocean waters typically have no choice but to buy through Seattle vendors.

Still, farms produce a rich variety of crops and livestock. Direct sales from farmers to household consumers run at 13 times the national average, amounting to one of every six dollars farmers earn selling food to humans. Lettuce, peppers, and cucumbers are available year-round from indoor farms. Chickens are grown inside greenhouses that rely upon surplus heat from nearby buildings.

In no other state is harvesting wild foods as important. Subsistence and personal use hunters bring in an estimated $900 million worth of salmon, caribou, moose, foraged greens and berries, and other foods. Yet even here, hunters and gatherers face special challenges: a decline of hunting skills, weakening ice, changing migrations, and radioactive fallout.

Our study, written by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg, offers practical steps for building a more reliable food supply by growing, storing, and marketing more Alaska-grown food to Alaskans. Commissioned by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Copies of the full 180-page report and a shorter executive summary and recommendations are linked below. In addition, most of the presentations and panel discussions from the Alaska Food Festival and Conference can be found here. This link includes a keynote presentation by Sitka Local Foods Network Board President Lisa Sadleir-Hart about the experience of compiling the Sitka Community Food Assessment, plus Sitka residents Keith Nyitray of the Sitka Food Co-op and Gordon Blue of the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust participated in panel discussions about food cooperatives and community-based fisheries, respectively.

In addition, earlier this year two locally focussed food assessments were released. Copies of the Sitka Community Food Assessment Indicators Report (released in April 2014) and the Southeast Alaska Food System Assessment (released in February 2014) can be found in the Documents section of our website.

• Building Food Security in Alaska, Executive Summary and Recommendations, by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg (released November 2014)

• Building Food Security in Alaska, by Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg (released November 2014)

Advertisements

• Sitka Sound Science Center presentation will shed light on impacts of Fukushima radiation in the Pacific Ocean

cooperFukushima

People living along the Pacific Coast, including in Sitka and Southeast Alaska, have been wondering about the impacts of radiation in the food supply ever since the March 2011 earthquake in Japan and Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant meltdown.

Dr. Lee Cooper of the University of Maryland, a Scientist in Residency Fellow at the Sitka Sound Science Center, will discuss the current state of the science on Fukushima radiation and its likely impact on the Gulf of Alaska during a brown-bag lunch presentation from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Friday, March 14, at the Sitka Pioneer Home Chapel. Bring your lunch and questions to the presentation, which is sponsored by the Sitka Sound Science Center and the National Science Foundation.

According to the Sitka Sound Science Center:

It is projected that dissolved contaminants, particularly the radioactive isotopes of cesium, 137Cs and 134Cs from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power in Japan, will reach Southeast Alaska this year.  Because the amount of radiation released is uncertain and the accident site is still leaking to some extent, it is difficult to know exactly what the peak concentrations of radioactive cesium will be in local waters, but it is not likely to exceed levels that were observed during the bomb fallout era 40 to 50 years ago. Cesium is chemically very similar to potassium, which is a common ionic salt in seawater, so fortunately the concentration of cesium into the foodweb and into seafood harvested for food is comparatively modest.

Nevertheless, it is important to put into perspective the potential risks involved and communicate this to the public. This talk will summarize the newest scientific information that is available on the impacts of the accident, based upon a special session held in late February at the Ocean Science Meeting in Honolulu and attended by scientists studying Fukushima impacts, ranging from Japan and East Asia to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

For more information, contact Tory O’Connell at 747-8878.

 

• How to weed through the conflicting information about Fukushima radiation and its impacts on Alaska waters

SalmonImage

Alaskans have been worried about their seafood ever since the March 2011 Fukushima earthquake and Japanese nuclear plant problems. It’s understandable that Alaskans are concerned about the safety of the seafood, seaweed and marine mammals in the area. But Alaskans also should note that most of the information posted on social marketing sites just isn’t true.

This NOAA map has been showing up on social media posts with a note that it shows the path of 300 tons of radioactive material entering the ocean each day. This map really shows the probable tsunami paths from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

FALSE IMAGE: TSUNAMI WAVES, NOT RADIATION: Many people have posted on social media that this NOAA map shows the path of 300 tons of radioactive material entering the ocean each day. This map really shows the probable tsunami wave heights from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

One of the biggest examples of false information usually is accompanied by an official-looking map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and a note that each day the map shows 300 tons of radioactive material entering the water each day. The map is an official NOAA map, but it doesn’t show radiation. It actually shows the probable tsunami paths from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. When in doubt, or even if not, don’t be afraid to consult one of the myth-debunker sites such as Snopes.com, which has the details on the real story behind this map.

The Sitka Local Foods Network has been following the situation since it happened, and we even posted an update in March 2012 in hopes of easing people’s worries (many of the links on this page have been updated). The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services also has a site with updates.

In recent weeks, Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins (D-Sitka) did some research, interviewing Dr. Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and one of the country’s top researchers on oceanographic radiation. Rep. Kreiss-Tomkins posted his findings in his Jan. 8 constituent newsletter, and that write-up also appeared in several Alaska publications such as the Alaska Dispatch.

010714_Fukushima-Radiation-GraphAlso in January, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig gave an update to the Alaska Senate’s Natural Resources Committee about what it’s doing to track the radiation, and he said so far the DEC hasn’t seen anything to cause concern. The Ketchikan website Stories In The News also had a follow-up story that included information from Hartic’s testimony and an update from Buesseler, who announced the launch of a new “How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?” website to help crowd-source information about what’s happening along the 5,000-mile Pacific coastline.

Taking things a step further, in January a couple of Seattle media organizations — KPLU and the Seattle Times — ran stories about Seattle fish-broker Loki Fish Co. ran its own tests on Alaska seafood. After the testing, the folks at Loki Fish Co. decided Pacific salmon is safe to eat.

• Gov. Parnell signs executive order creating the Alaska Food Resource Working Group

AlaskaFoodPolicyCouncilLogoThe following is a note sent to members of the Alaska Food Policy Council listserv by Diane Peck, MPH, RD, a public health nutritionist with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program. Diane also is one of the lead contacts for the Alaska Food Policy Council.

Last Friday (June 28, 2013), at the Palmer Farmers Market, Gov. Sean Parnell signed Administrative Order No. 265 (http://gov.state.ak.us/admin-orders/265.html) to establish the Alaska Food Resource Working Group (AFRWG) to recommend policies and measures to increase the purchase and consumption of local wild seafood and farm products. This is a bit different than HCR 01. The AFRWG is composed of eight state agency commissioners or their designee. “The AFRWG shall collaborate with the Alaska Food Policy Council . . . and shall invite a member of the AFPC governing board to represent the AFPC at scheduled meetings.”

The goals of the group are:

  • Develop a mission statement that promotes increased use of locally grown and harvested foods within state and local agencies, institutions, and schools;
  • Identify factors that might discourage or prevent locally harvested and produced food from being purchased by federal, state and local agencies, institutions, and schools;
  • Review existing or proposed programs, policies, statutes, and regulations that impact the state’s food system and recommend to policymakers methods to improve coordination and implementation;
  • Identify research needed to support and encourage increased consumption and production of local foods within the state; and
  • Engage with the public to seek additional input on ways to promote the above-listed goals.

Lots of legislators and several commissioners were at the signing.  The governor said this elevates the group to “sub-cabinet” status.

To learn more about the Alaska Food Policy Council, go to its website or like its Facebook page. Sitka Local Foods Network board president Lisa Sadleir-Hart represents Sitka on the Alaska Food Policy Council.

• Alaska Food Policy Council press release about the executive order

• Alaska Department of Health issues PSP warning for Southeast Alaska shellfish

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

On Friday, June 22, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services issued a paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) warning for Southeast Alaska shellfish. Please be aware that there have been several PSP blooms in recent years, and the PSP toxin has sent several people to the hospital and even resulted in a couple of deaths.

The state in general does not recommend the recreational or subsistence harvest of shellfish (in particular filter-feeding bi-valves such as clams, cockles, oysters, mussels and others) from Alaska beaches because they are not checked for the PSP toxin. Commercial shellfish is tested for PSP and safe to eat. In addition to the links in the press release below, here is a link to more information about PSP from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), http://searhc.org/publications/featured_stories/2011_06_psp.php. Now here is the text of the release:


Scientists advise against harvesting shellfish due to large “red tide” in Southeast Alaska

State health officials remind public about risks

 

ANCHORAGE — Warm weather combined with an increasingly large algae bloom in Southeast Alaska has scientists advising extra caution to would-be recreational shellfish harvesters. Water samples taken from around Etolin Island show increasing levels of Alexandrium algae, which produces paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in shellfish. Tests have also shown a slight increase in Alexandrium levels on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island as well as extremely high levels around Juneau.

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Scientists have also identified unsafe levels of three different species of Dinophysis algae, which produces diarrhetic shellfish poisoning (DSP), in samples from around Ketchikan. DSP can cause diarrhea, PSP can cause paralysis.

“These Alexandrium levels are similar to what we saw last year when we had such high levels of PSP toxins in shellfish,” said Kate Sullivan, with the University of Alaska Southeast and co-founder of the Alaska Harmful Algal Bloom Partnership (AHAB). “Last summer we had a number of cases, including four people who needed to be hospitalized. We want people to be extra cautious and remember that the only safe shellfish is the kind you buy at the store.”

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Early signs of paralytic shellfish poisoning often include tingling of the lips and tongue. Symptoms may progress to tingling of fingers and toes, then loss of control of arms and legs, followed by difficulty breathing. Death can result in as little as two hours.

All locally harvested shellfish — including clams, mussels, oysters, geoducks and scallops — can contain paralytic shellfish poison. Crabmeat is not known to contain the PSP toxin, but crab guts can contain unsafe levels of toxin and should be discarded. There is no way to tell if a beach is safe for harvesting by looking at it. Toxins can be present in large amounts even if the water looks clear. Also, the toxin can remain in shellfish long after the algae bloom is over. PSP cannot be cooked, cleaned or frozen out of shellfish. Commercially grown shellfish is tested and considered safe.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning is considered a public health emergency. Suspected cases must be reported immediately to the Section of Epidemiology by health care providers at 907-269-8000 during work hours or 800-478-0084 after hours.

For more information on PSP go to:

http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/marine_toxins/, or

http://www.epi.alaska.gov/id/dod/psp/ParalyticShellfishPoisoningFactSheet.pdf

• Alaska Food Policy Council seeks people to join its five priority strategies action plan work groups

The Alaska Food Policy Council  is seeking Alaska residents to participate in five workgroups to help develop action plans for certain key food issues in the state.

A group of 30 council members met on April 4-5 to develop basic action plans geared toward five priority strategies to improve food security in the state. Now they need people to begin implementing the individual action plans. The five priority strategies are part of the Alaska Food Policy Council’s three-year strategic plan developed at its Jan. 12 meeting.

The five priority strategies include:

  • Improving school-based programs such as Farm to Schools and Fish to Schools;
  • Strengthening enforcement of the state’s 7-percent bidding preference for Alaska Grown food;
  • Improving emergency food preparedness plans throughout the state;
  • Serving as a research aggregator/resource to help people get a better handle on Alaska’s food situation and supply chain; and
  • Supporting local food efforts throughout the state.

The Alaska Food Policy Council got its start during a May 18-19, 2010, meeting in Anchorage. Sitka Local Foods Network treasurer Lisa Sadleir-Hart, a registered dietitian and SEARHC Health Educator, is one of the 30 members of the council.

These five work groups are open to anybody who has a special interest in the various topics. To learn more about the work groups, contact Lisa Sadleir-Hart at 966-8735 or lisa.sadleir-hart@searhc.org, or contact Alaska Food Policy Council Coordinator Diane Peck with the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Obesity Prevention and Control Program at 269-8447 or diane.peck@alaska.gov.

• Alaska Food Policy Council School Programs Action Plan (Strategy 1)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Local Grown Action Plan (Strategy 2)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Disaster Preparedness Action Plan (Strategy 3)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Research and Information Action Plan (Strategy 4)

• Alaska Food Policy Council Public Engagement Action Plan (Strategy 5)

• Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) warning issued for Southeast Alaska

The enclosed copy is courtesy of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) website.

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

A cockle has deep ridges similar to a Ruffles potato chip (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

This past week has seen five cases of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) in Alaska, including two cases in Southeast Alaska that resulted in the June 17 death of a Juneau woman who ate a cockle and the June 22 death of a Haines man who ate a Dungeness crab. The other three cases were in Kodiak and they resulted in illness from eating butter clams.

The two Southeast deaths, if confirmed by autopsy, will be the first paralytic shellfish poisoning deaths in Alaska since 1997. In 2009 there was just one reported case of PSP in Alaska, and there were no cases of PSP in 2008 and one in 2007. There have been periodic outbreaks of PSP over the years, with the most deadly instance coming when clams and mussels gathered from Peril Straits near Sitka killed more than 100 Russians and Aleuts in 1799.

According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, the 57-year-old Juneau woman reportedly ate cockles she gathered on June 14 from the Point Louisa end of Auke Bay. She died June 17 after being hospitalized at Bartlett Regional Hospital in Juneau. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation tested cockles from Auke Bay after the woman was hospitalized and DEC found the Auke Bay cockles had much higher levels of PSP than acceptable (they should not have more than 80 parts per million, and the cockles had 2,044 parts per million).

The 57-year-old Haines man reportedly ate Dungeness crab on June 18 that he caught off Jenkins Rock near the Chilkat Inlet of Lynn Canal. He was hospitalized at Bartlett Regional Hospital on June 18 and released from the hospital on June 21. He died in his Haines home early on June 22. Dungeness crab meat does not contain PSP, but the viscera (guts) can have the toxin, health officials said. People should not eat crab viscera. The Department of Environmental Conservation plans to test crabs from Southeast for PSP.

What is paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP)?

Paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP, is a potentially lethal toxin that can lead to fatal respiratory paralysis, according to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The toxin comes from algae, which is a food source for clams, mussels, crabs and other shellfish found across Alaska. This toxin can be found in shellfish every month of the year, and butter clams have been known to store the toxin for up to two years. The toxin cannot be seen with the naked eye, and there is no simple test a person can do before they harvest. One of the highest concentrations of PSP in the world was reported in shellfish from Southeast Alaska.

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The butter clam has one set of rings that go one direction only, around the same center point (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

Symptoms of PSP can begin almost immediately, or they can take several hours after eating the affected shellfish before they appear. Symptoms include shortness of breath, tingling, dizziness and numbness. If you suspect someone has symptoms of PSP, get that person to a medical facility fast (an Alaska Sea Grant link below has first aid for PSP). Death is rare from PSP, but some people have died after eating just one clam or mussel with the PSP toxin, while in other cases it took eating many clams or mussels to get enough of the poison to cause death.

Are Southeast beaches safe for subsistence or recreational shellfish harvesting?

The Department of Environmental Conservation recommends harvesting of shellfish only from DEC-certified beaches, and the only certified beaches in the state are located in the Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay areas of Southcentral Alaska. According to DEC, there are no certified beaches in populated areas of Southeast Alaska, Kodiak or the Aleutian Islands. The only beaches DEC can certify as safe for shellfish collecting are those where state-certified testing of clams and mussels is done regularly.

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

The littleneck clam has two sets of rings that cross each other at 90 degree angles (Photo courtesy of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation)

“Do not eat shellfish from uncertified beaches,” DEC Program Specialist George Scanlan said. “Anyone who eats PSP-contaminated shellfish is at risk for illness or death.”

The DEC warning does not apply to commercially grown and harvested shellfish available in grocery stores and restaurants. Commercially grown and harvested shellfish goes through a regular testing program before it goes to market.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) resources

DEC page about paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and how it works, http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/psp.htm

DEC links page with more info about PSP,
http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psphome.htm

DEC page about identifying butter clams, littleneck clams and cockles (has photos),
http://www.dec.state.ak.us/eh/fss/seafood/psp/shellfish.htm

Current DEC warning about PSP in Alaska (dated June 16, 2010),
http://dec.alaska.gov/press_releases/2010/2010_06_16_psp%20final.pdf

Joint DH&SS/DEC press release about Haines case of PSP (dated June 21, 2010),
http://www.hss.state.ak.us/press/2010/Additional_case_of_PSP_reported_062110.pdf

DH&SS  fact sheet about paralytic shellfish poisoning, http://www.hss.state.ak.us/pdf/201006_shellfish.pdf

Twitter feed for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services,
http://twitter.com/alaska_DHSS

Alaska Sea Grant page with links about paralytic shellfish poisoning,
http://seagrant.uaf.edu/features/PSP/psp_page.html

Alaska Sea Grant page with first aid for PSP victims (get victim to medical facility fast),
http://seagrant.uaf.edu/features/PSP/PSP_aid.html

Centers of Disease Control and Prevention page on marine toxins (including PSP),
http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/marine_toxins/