You might not want to eat your vegetables for an entirely new reason after seeing some strange fruit and veggies that reportedly have turned up in villages surrounding Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Images of the bizarrely deformed flora – which range from tomatoes with tumor-like growths to monstrous cabbage and conjoined peaches – turned up on the website Imgur this week, with the title, “Effects from the Fukushima radiation disaster?”
It was unclear exactly where the images came from, but the title of the image set suggested that the deformed fruits and veggies were a result of the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant meltdown.
The disaster occurred after an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan’s coast, leading to more than 15,000 deaths. The incident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant was the worst nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
The fruit and vegetable images began to tear across the Web after they were posted as a slideshow and trending topic by MSN.com on Tuesday.
Timothy Mousseau, a biology professor at the University of South Carolina who is currently studying fauna in Fukushima, told ABCNews.com that there is some evidence for increased mutations in the area, but that the images that have emerged online would need follow-up studies to be confirmed as legitimate.
“We have seen some evidence of increased mutation rates in plants and barn swallows in Fukushima, but we have not had the funding to do the sort if rigorous science that is necessary to examine such questions in a convincing manner,” he said. “The vegetable photos are suggestive but, at present, are only anecdotal. Follow-up studies need to be conducted by qualified researchers to verify the validity of these observations.”
Last year, Japanese scientists said that “abnormalities” detected in the country’s butterflies may be a result of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima disaster. Researchers said that “artificial radionuclides” from the stricken power plant caused “physiological and genetic damage” to pale grass blue butterflies.
Five months after the disaster, cesium 137 and 134 were detected in more than a dozen bluefin tuna caught near San Diego. The levels were 10 times higher than tuna found in previous years.
The World Health Organization released a report in February saying that “for the general population inside and outside of Japan, the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated.”