(Updated with new information on the US radiation standard, at the bottom.)
The Oxford PhD governor strikes again, this time in New York, telling green tea lovers in the city that Shizuoka tea is safe because it has tested below the safety limit and it's good for their health. He also reminds them that Shizuoka is very far from Fukushima.
I suppose there aren't many green tea lovers in New York who read my blog. If they had read my blog, they could have told the governor what he was saying was plain wrong.
(Now, readers of this blog, can you spot what's wrong with the governor's statement?)
From Asahi Shinbun (7/15/2011):
Governor Heita Kawakatsu of Shizuoka Prefecture joined a gathering of green tea lovers in New York on July 14 and appealed the safety of the teas grown in Shizuoka Prefecture, the largest tea producer in Japan.
The US is the largest market for Japan's tea export with 46% share. The governor said he wanted to dispel the anxiety due to the Fukushima nuke accident and appeal the safety directly to consumers in New York, where the Japanese food is popular.
Governor Kawakatsu explained that Shizuoka Prefecture was far away from Fukushima Prefecture where the accident happened, and that the survey of the dried teas in the prefecture's tea growing regions showed that the levels of radioactive cesium were below the safety limit. He said, "Shizuoka's tea is not only safe but good for your health." At the gathering, there were demonstrations on how to enjoy green tea in different ways.
The Tea Association of the US's chairman said, "There's nothing in the world like green tea from Japan. If we upload the data [that the governor has given us] to our homepage, the sale of green tea will be back to normal."
Answers to the question of what's wrong with the governor's statement:
1. Shizuoka is far away from Fukushima, so what? That does not change the fact that radioactive materials have been falling in Shizuoka since the Fukushima blowup, and hasn't stopped at the prefectural border (although initially some people in Shizuoka actually claimed that the Hakone Mountains blocked the radiation).
2. The statement that "the levels of radioactive cesium were below the safety limit" is plain wrong. French authorities confiscated the green tea grown and processed in Shizuoka Prefecture when that tea tested over 1000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium, twice the loose safety limit of Japan and the EU. Also, the tea from Warashina District tested higher than the 500 becquerels/kg limit, which was first discovered by Radish Boya, an online grocer in Tokyo.
3. Standard? What standard? The radiation safety limit for food in the US is 170 becquerels/kg. Of all teas from Shizuoka's tea growing regions, only 4 would be considered safe, being below 170 becquerels/kg. The data is right there in the Shizuoka prefectural government website.
If the governor tries to get away by saying the radioactive materials in the brewed tea in a teacup tested below the safety limit, that's also wrong. The Shizuoka government website also has that data, which shows between 1.6 and 14 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. Since it is water that is used to brew the tea, we can translate this as having 1.6 to 14 becquerels/liter of radioactive cesium. It sure clears the Japan's extremely loose standard after Fukushima, which is 200 becquerels/liter.
However, the US standard for drinks is 0.11 becquerels/liter. None of the Shizuoka tea, even when brewed, would pass the safety standard of the US. Several would fail the WHO standard, which is 10 becquerels/liter.
Maybe the Tea Association chairman didn't know about the standards in the US. Or maybe the strict standards have been modified quietly in the US just like the EU did.
The chairman is right in saying "There's nothing in the world like green tea from Japan." There's nothing like it, but unfortunately not in a sense he probably means.
An anonymous reader linked the FDA document on the US standards on radionuclides. It looks to be the standards in the time of nuclear emergency (I could be wrong), and for food items, for adults, the intervention level for radioactive cesium is 1,200 becquerels/kg, and the level of concern is 370 becquerels/kg. The document is here.