Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shizuoka Prefecture Goes to New York with Green Tea, Again, to Educate US Consumers about Safety

This time, Heita Kawakatsu, the Oxford-grad governor of Shizuoka Prefecture, is using young Shizuoka people to push his radioactive tea to New Yorkers instead of going there himself.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (12/13/2011):


Wanting to completely dispel the baseless rumors after the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident, representatives from Shizuoka Prefecture, the largest producer of "ara-cha" (bulk tea) in Japan, served "fukamushi-cha" [tea made by steaming the leaves longer) at a Japanese confectionery store in the center of New York City on December 12 as part of the PR event to appeal safety.


After the nuclear accident, some of the teas produced in Shizuoka were found with radioactive cesium exceeding the provisional safety limit set by the national government. However, the event was to educate [the US] consumers that there would be no effect on health if they drank teas that were being sold in the marketplace.


Arianna Solomon, 17-year-old high school student, enjoyed the Shizuoka tea. "My grandmother drinks Japanese tea every day. I like it too."

"Some" Shizuoka teas were indeed found with radioactive materials exceeding the Japanese provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg). What the newspaper fails to mention is that radioactive cesium was found in almost all the Shizuoka teas tested.

The US peacetime limit for radioactive cesium in water and drinks is 3.0 picocuries, or 0.1 becquerel/liter. The same for food is 170 becquerels/kg.

The US FDA has the Derived Intervension Level (DIL) which is 1200 becquerels/kg, and the level of concern at 370 becquerels/kg to govern the domestic food in interstate commerce and the imported food as a non-enforceable "recommendation". But this is NOT a nuclear emergency for the United States, in which the citizens would suffer without food and drinks if the government did not raise the limits for radioactive materials in food and drinks in interstate commerce or from import.

Scanning the official webpage of Shizuoka Prefecture where the results of tea testing are published, you'll notice that testing seems to have been one bag at one tea plantation in one city. We know how well the similar testing of rice in Fukushima Prefecture has turned out to be.

  • Number of teas that tested with radioactive cesium: all of 102 samples tested

  • Number of teas that tested between 100 and 370 becquerels/kg): 46

  • Number of teas that tested above the "level of concern"(370 becquerels/kg) in the US: 21

  • Number of teas that tested above the provisional safety limit of Japan: 7

  • Number of teas that tested above the DIL in the US: 0

Shizuoka's webpage has a limited number of tests on brewed tea, using 10 grams of dried tea leaves and brewing for 60 seconds with 430 milliliters of water at 90 degrees Celsius. The results are between 1.6 and 14 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in brewed tea.

I drink 3, 4 cups of green tea every day. That's about 500 milliliters per day. If I were drinking the Shizuoka tea that had 14 becquerels/kg of cesium after it was brewed, I would ingest 14 becquerels of radioactive cesium every two days. In one year, I would have 2555 becquerels of radioactive cesium total, more than half of which would be retained in the body, looking at the ICRP chart below (from ICRP Publication 111).

I think I'll stay away from teas grown in Shizuoka, or anywhere in Kanto region, but it's my personal decision based on the information that I have digested since March 11.


Anonymous said...

i use a liter of green tea each day for my enema treatment...can i get radiation from an enema? this is part of my treatment by doctor.

Steveo said...

agreed, no more unagi either.

Anonymous said...

"If I were drinking the Shizuoka tea that had 14 becquerels/kg of cesium after it was brewed, I would ingest 14 becquerels of radioactive cesium every two days. In one year, I would have 2555 becquerels of radioactive cesium"

But if you get the one with 1.6 becquerels/kg you would only have accumulated 292 becquerels!

-Shizuoka Tea-
Less cesium, all the flavor

robertb said...

No more tea, fish, or rice. If only we didn't need to build bombs that can blow up the world thousands of times over. Electricity is a byproduct of nuclear fission. Enrichment of uranium is the primary concern. Until we somehow stop various militaries from doing this. They're going to keep building them.

Alessandro said...

@laprimavera: do you think also tea from Uji or even Kagoshima have the slightest opportunity to turn radioactive upon checking?
Second question: living abroad I must trust some online japanese tea vendors (such Yuuki-cha for example). Yuuki cha is Chiba based but sources their teas from Uji and Kagoshima. Do you think also these tea, just by only being sent fron the original places to Chiba, can become somewhat contaminated?

Anonymous said...

Alessandro, it's radiation, not the flu.

Anonymous said...

That picture is well designed to approach the tipping point for the descriptor 'lurid'.

To think, their sales pitch is "We have come to offer you our friendly destabilised nucleii for the betterment of your life. Won't you have some ?".

Atomfritz said...

I am so happy that I prefer ecologically-grown black tea from Darjeeling!

Smilingly I remember the police raiding the Turkish groceries in Berlin to confiscate the big quantities of smuggled radioactive Turkish tea that was around 5000 Bq/kg back in 1986...

Anonymous said...

Contrast that with this behavior by the French,

France hid info on effects of Chernobyl cloud


Yosaku said...


I agree with you that I won't be drinking the tea from Shizuoka anytime soon to the extent that I can easily avoid it, but I'm afraid I don't follow your math for the following statement:

"If I were drinking the Shizuoka tea that had 14 becquerels/kg of cesium after it was brewed, I would ingest 14 becquerels of radioactive cesium every two days. In one year, I would have 2555 becquerels of radioactive cesium total, _more than half of which_ would be retained in the body..." (emphasis mine).

For the sake of round numbers, let's say that you were ingesting 10 Bq each day for an entire year. Over the course of the year, you would have ingested 3,650 Bq. According to the ICRP's chart, at the end of such year you would have approximately 1,300 Bq retained in your body, or 35% or so of the yearly intake. Furthermore, if you were to continue drinking this amount for multiple years, you would reach about 1,450 Bq, or about 40% of the yearly intake. Neither of these scenarios would leave you with more than half of your yearly intake.

The same rough percentages should hold true for your proposed intake of 7 Bq/d.

Alessandro said...

Problem is: are we really sure that also other japanese green tea producing regions are free of radionuclide contaminants?
I mean: Kagoshima, Uji, Wazuka etc..?
If anyone knows of any exhaustive radiation tests carried on green teas from these regions mentioned above please post a link here.
Because, as long as Shizuoka tea is found to be positive to radionuclide presence and the way tests are conducted leave a lot to be desired, why tests for Kagoshima, Uji, Wazuka, Yame etc... cannot be manipulated as well?

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