Home > Food, Japan, News, Special Report > Japanese Government wants you to eat radioactive food: Part VI

Japanese Government wants you to eat radioactive food: Part VI

May 16, 2012

Japanese workers with tea. Tea absorbs a large amount of radiation and tea as far south as Shizuoka has been affected by Fukushima’s radiation. Some are claiming that radiation is “harmless” and that drinking radioactive tea is “healthy.” Source: CNN

This is part VI of a spacial report on radiation in Japanese food. Click here for part V.

The situation with tea in the Fukushima area is worrisome to say the least. On March 23, the Mainichi newspaper reported  that a Fukushima resident’s tea from May 2011 measured 24,700 Bq/kg (Japanese here, English translation here). That is 49.4 times the limit of 500 Bq/kg set by the government. Though the tea was not sold and there were bans on certain food products last year, that would not necessarily affect a private citizen’s use of tea grown in his/her garden. Home gardens are quite common in rural areas and suburban areas, and school children all over Japan often go on trips to small tea fields to pick and later brew the leaves. They also pick strawberries, potatoes and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Have school children picked and eaten local produce in the Fukushima City area? What about residents who have a garden in the back yard? Have any of them eaten from their gardens? What percent of local food is in the school lunches or general diet daily? Whilst foreign governments may not worry about these questions, Japanese mothers do.

Whilst one cannot use this one elevated sample of radiation in a garden to reach conclusions about the radiological contamination of gardens in Fukushima City, one must remember that this was not an isolated incident. In December 2011, “hot spots of up to 37 microSieverts per hour in a garden in suburban Watari,” reported Greenpeace (my emphasis, article here). The data indicate that residents simply living in the area waiting for decontamination “are at risk of being exposed to over ten times the 1 milliSievert per year international maximum for radiation doses” (the range of 1mSv/year to 3mSv/year is usually considered normal background radiation, as per the NRC click here). Greenpeace refers to the government’s effort to decontaminate as “incompetent” and one that is “risking health” of residents. There have been checks of background radiation, but of the gardens? Would a blanket ban be appropriate? We do not know the answers to these questions.

A serious investigation of locally grown food might confirm the suspicion of widespread contamination (and it might not). That is, however, not what is going to happen according to the Mainichi article. Instead, the authorities are asking individuals to voluntarily bring samples to a facility (not yet in service) in future.  The Mainichi says, “The city plans to increase the number of detectors and will set up 28 testing laboratories in the city by the end of this month.” This could be interpreted as saying there has been inadequate testing of food in Fukushima City for the past year, and that there is no plan to take preventive measures to stop the ingestion of possibly contaminated foods. That such high levels have been found is hardly surprising in an area roughly 60km away from the power plant has high levels of radiation. To put it into perspective, the US government advised its citizens to evacuate to an area a minimum of 80km away from the plant (here). That means Fukushima City itself was considered so unsafe that Americans were told to leave or stay indoors; it goes without saying that food from the area would have been off limits.

The Japanese government never adopted those recommendations, and provides no compensation to residents in the area. How many people have consumed highly radioactive foods grown in their gardens in the past year?

Civis Journal

 

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  1. May 18, 2012 at 14:36

    Reblogged this on lisparc.

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