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.