Friday, October 25, 2013

Long Shadow of Chernobyl (4): Organic Blueberry Spread Imported from Italy Found with 164 Bq/Kg of Cesium-137

Japanese weekly magazine Shukan Asahi did its own checking on imported blueberry spread being sold in Tokyo and alerted the health authorities, who were reluctant to do anything at first.

Main points from from Shukan Asahi (10/23/2013) article:
  • "Fior di frutta organic fruits spread" blueberry imported from Italy

  • Place of origin: Bulgaria

  • 164Bq/kg of cesium-137 by test commissioned by Shukan Asahi

  • 140Bq/kg of cesium-137 by test by the municipal (Tokyo) health authorities

  • Shibuya-ku ordered the importer MIE PROJECT on October 18 to recall 5,184 bottles of blueberry spread with the best before date of October 17, 2015.

  • Ministry of Health and Welfare initially refused to do anything based on "private" (as opposed to "official" - i.e. by the government) test results.

  • The public health centers involved didn't want to move either on just "an article that appeared in a magazine".

  • Less than 10 percent of all imported food is tested; it is possible that people are eating contaminated food without knowing.

For articles on "Long Shadow of Chernobyl", go here.


Anonymous said...

To put this into perspective, and I am not trying to say it is safe or desirable, but a person would have to eat about 470 kg of this spread to get a dose of 1mSv, the maximum value for a member of the public in a year.

Anonymous said...

@ anon 5:49,

It does illustrate the vagaries of border crossings. Whereas the French border guards and their defenders will state they stopped the Chernobyl plume dead in its tracks at their border, their Italian counterparts appeared to have missed the memo.

Anonymous said...

@5:49 This one you play is an old nuke propaganda trick.
The correct question is: what if all your food is contaminated at 167 Bq/kg? Is this an acceptable level? The answer is no, because you eat more than about 1000 kg of food in a year.
Furthermore, contamination from food needs to be added to all others intake paths of radionuclides. For example, assuming you think it is acceptable to receive a 1mSv/yr from civil nuclear sources (as per Japanese law) you need to split that 1 mSv between food, water and dust that you intake in your lungs.
Assuming that you allocate .5 mSv/yr to food, if your food is contaminated at 167 Bq/kg and you eat 1000 kg/yr you will be exceeding your food allowance by 300%.
If you think it is ok to take 1 mSv/yr your food should not be more contaminated than 40 mSv/kg.

Anonymous said...

And this is only the shit we're aware of.
Imagine how much other stuff constantly slips by us.

Vyse Legendaire said...

I'm sure those hot spots all over Tokyo won't add to your yearly intake of rads, because, well, hey love and peace :).

Anonymous said...

@Beppe 8:43: You seem to be the "big evil conspiracy" believer type…
First, no, you don't eat 1000 kg of food per year - unless maybe if your sport is sumo ;-) 200-300 kg is more realistic.
Second, assuming all your food is contaminated to the max is unreasonable, especially given the fact staples (rice, pasta, etc.) will be heavily checked. In fact, if you look at the UNSCEAR report, they mainly warn against forest products, because cesium tends to be quite persistent there. Especially: mushrooms (some concentrate cesium strongly), game (esp. wild boars, who eat mushrooms), reindeer and wild berries (this case). Unless you eat a lot of this, no worries (you should nevertheless be careful of ash from imported wood, see previous posts, if you use the ash as a fertilizer in your garden).
Also, don't forget public water will be checked / treated, and unless you live in a very contaminated area, I wouldn't worry about breathing significant amounts of cesium-laden dust…
And last, don't forget: in radiation science, the same methods apply for all sources (natural, medical and industrial) - there are no "loopholes" for particular radioisotopes!

Anonymous said...

@Beppe 8:43
"This one you play is an old nuke propaganda trick."

Not playing anything. You are correct that if all of your food is contaminated as well as the air you breath and your water to similar levels you would be greatly exceeding accepted international standards for additional dose to members of the public.

What I am playing is the fact that the levels of contamination found in this spread by itself will not deliver a significant dose to any members of the public. This is not to say that food contaminated to these levels is acceptable.

For your information you should know that 1 Bq of Cs137 inhaled provides twice the dose of 1 Bq injested.

Where I live the dose received from natural sources exceeds 5 mSv a year.

Anonymous said...

@11:18 This is another nuke propaganda classic, besides that fact that we do not who you are nor where you live.
The average dose from natural sources worldwide is 2+ mSv/yr; does this mean that it is ok to get another 2 mSv from Fukushima because Tepco is saving a few pennies. According to the nuclear industry sponsored ICRP there is no minimum safe dose: every bequerel Tepco makes you swallow increases your chances to get sick.
This jam alone might not deliver a significant dose to the public but this jam is not the only food that delivers a dose above the acceptable limits.
If you really live in an environment where you get more than 5 mSv/yr you should consider that the limit for medical personnel in Japan is 5 mSv/yr and they are required to take regular health checkups, you might want to do the same -- or move to a healthier location.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

How much internal radiation exposure from food intake one can allow him/herself is totally up to that individual. There is no "scientific" or generalized rule that everyone should follow, as far as I'm concerned. Even ICRP says as much, that radiation exposure should be personalized.

For some, 10Bq/kg in staples like rice and vegetables is more than they could allow, particularly when the amount right before the accident was either ND or less than 1Bq/kg. For others, 100, or 1000Bq/kg is apparently no big deal, and helping Fukushima farmers is more important.

Some have no problem with added cesium in green tea from eastern Japan, others stay away. I do not see much point in labeling one as scientific or unscientific, or typecasting, because of their personal choices.

Anonymous said...

@11:18 This is another nuke propaganda classic, besides that fact that we do not who you are nor where you live

I am sorry that you consider facts nuke propaganda. I like many others live in one of many areas of North America that has higher levels of radon gas.

"The average dose from natural sources worldwide is 2+ mSv/yr; does this mean that it is ok to get another 2 mSv from Fukushima because Tepco is saving a few pennies."

No, I do not think it is ok to get another 2mSv from Fukushima but I do recognize the average dose in the US works out to be 6.2 mSv, 3.1 from natural sources and 3.1 from man made sources, including 3 mSv from medical procedures.

As a result of having a medical checkup I had a CT scan that resulted in a dose of between 10 and 20 mSv.

The actual ICRP statement is " nevertheless, in view of the incomplete evidence on which the values are based, coupled with the knowledge that certain radiation effects are irreversible and cumulative,it is strongly recommended that every effort be made to reduce exposure to all types of ionizing radiation to the lowest possible level."

Would it be another nuke propaganda classic to point out sunlight is ionizing radiation?

Anonymous said...

Whatever your stance is - radiation exposure is nothing to worry about, or not - the fact is that this organic blueberry spread exceeded the safety limit set by the Japanese government for radioactive cesium in food.

Comparing it to sunlight is just ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

My stance is radiation exposure is something to be minimized, I was trying to provide some context. The spread in itself would not provide significant dose.

It is interesting that Japan now has a limit of 100 Bq/kg, the EU 600 Bq/kg and the US 1200 Bq/kg for Cs137. The Japanese limit used to be 500 Bq/kg. The change is to limit dose from food to 1mSv per year from the previous limit of 5mSv.

No attempt intended to directly compare contaminated food to sunlight.

The attempt was to show that sunlight is ionizing radiation. Where I live most people in winter want to escape to somewhere where they can spend two weeks basking in ionizing radiation.

Anonymous said...

The human race has come a long way in nuclear bombs and nuclear power generation. Hasn't been 100 hundred years yet of this nuke era. If it wasn't for governments acting like socialists and forcing nuke costs on their citizens, their would be no nuclear power generating stations.

Enter the nuclear apologists where radiation is to be ignored as trivial as dead zones creep in around the world ever so slowly. Don't be a downwinder, then don't eat certain mushrooms, then don't eat animals that forage on irradiated foods, don't fish from a miniscule portion of a Japanese coastline... ever expanding radiation zones and rising background levels with higher and higher cancer rates.

No worries for the older people, cancers caused by man-made radionuclides have an incubation period from 5-80 years and most here will be dead before ionizing intake shows itself as cancer causing. For kids and young women in generations to come, evil is afoot now to change the diagnosis for cancer. And when that happens, cancer rates will magically be lower but the suffering will not be. Not to mention the overall failing of well being due to the preliminary and subtle effects of radiation poisoning.

I didn't realize breathing poisoned air was a personal choice.

Anonymous said...

@ October 26, 2013 at 5:49 AM
"To put this into perspective, and I am not trying to say it is safe or desirable, but a person would have to eat about 470 kg of this spread to get a dose of 1mSv, the maximum value for a member of the public in a year."

You aren't putting into perspective. You are distorting it. A nuclear accident, for which no one in the nuclear power industry studies or acknowledges, is actively contaminating food sources 25 years later and this food source is probably one of many - the others are undetected. The industry and governments raise the limits for humans higher every time they lose control and damage the environment. The fruit spread shouldn't be contaminated. Many people would have avoided eating if they knew before that it was contaminated. We are surrounded by contamination but we haven't assimilated Geiger counters into our trips to the store for food.
@ October 26, 2013 at 11:58 AM
"And last, don't forget: in radiation science, the same methods apply for all sources (natural, medical and industrial) - there are no "loopholes" for particular radioisotopes!"
Nuclear engineers often say this and "Dose is dose!" This is sad sign of how poor professional development is among nuclear engineers. They don't understand the dosimetry they talk about and know nothing about the effects of radiation on humans, and they don't care. The EPA identifies radioistopes and describes specific characterists relevant to human health which differ among the isotopes. It's not a loophole, it's medical fact. Isotopes demonstrate very different effects on human health - all of the nuclear engineer's dosimetric calculations don't take this into account. Therefore, dosimetry calculations used by nuclear power plant staff is, by design, wrong. Strontium lodges in the bones and causes leukemia, cesium collects in muscle and the heart is a muscle so it is associated with cardiac arrest. The isotopes have different energy levels, can be beta, gamma etc, can collect in different parts of the body, have different have lives, are either taken up or eliminated by the body (bioavailablity) differently and quite obviously effect human health differently. But the nuke engineers say "Dose is Dose!" because they are ignorant and believe what they were told in engineering school.

@October 26, 2013 at 9:00 PM
"Where I live most people in winter want to escape to somewhere where they can spend two weeks basking in ionizing radiation."

What about people who don't want TEPCO and other nuclear power plants to shower them with radiation? I'm fine with people choosing sunlight if they want. I object to incompetence and lies from the nuclear power industry robbing people of their basic right to make decisions about their exposure.

Maria Ferdinanda Piva said...

I wrote about his jam in Italian and I put here tre translation of some parts.

Just after Fukushima nuclear disaster the European Union adjusted radiation levels allowed in food to match Japan's: long life to liberalized market! The good thing is that until 2011 Japanese standards were stricter the European ones, even if we had got the fingers burnt with Chernobyl. Later on Japan drastically lowered the allowed radiation levels, but this time the EU didn't follow the example.
For the record, the blueberry jam at issue shows radiation levels which are one ninth of the threshold allowed in the UE: it is nine times less radioactive than the food I may put on the table everyday.
Let's say, we are eating food that Japan doesn't want: and they are right to do so, in my opinion. Somebody tell the UE that it's time to adopt Japanese standards, at least for the sake of liberalized market – which Europe seems to hold so dear...

You can reach the links to Eu rules about radioactivity in food from

Anonymous said...

Did anyone notice how (stupidly, in my opinion, very stupidly) things work in the so called "free market"?
"Blueberry organic spread imported from Italy"
"Place of origin: Bulgaria"
So what? Bulgarian aren't able to make blueberry spread?

Anonymous said...

@Maria Ferdinanda Piva

Thank you very much for the translation! :)

Anonymous said...

This is very positive for Japan. 3.6 gigawatts renewable in the past year!

Perhaps Korea could take a lesson from this.

Anonymous said...

You choose to bathe in sunlight, you choose to have a CT scan and in both cases you get a benefit out of your choice.
What benefit do my kids get out of unknowingly eat contaminated food?
Primavera-san: it's not about labeling, putting in the same basket environmental radiation (which you can hardly avoid) and profit induced food contamination is not correct and is a classic of the nuke industry propaganda. The average reader assumes that there is a minimum safe dose, which is not the case for radiation, and the nuke folks exploit this lack of knowledge for their profit.


Anonymous said...

I have solved the mystery of the nuclear industry promoters. "Blindness" from proximity to ionizing radiation.

Many of the changes are not reversible, and Wade Allison's repair genes "provided by nature" are subject to change.

The nuclear industry's weakened sense of the damage to its health causes them to forever reenact the "blinding" of themselves to its effects. Their Mind's Eye grows dull. They live to affirm their error.


arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Beppe, I was thinking more about "conspiracy theorist" label put on you...

Anonymous said...

According to adults in Italy eat 2174 gr/day, which is shy of 800 kg/year. Folks in the US are apparently closer to a four digits figure.


Anonymous said...

"in radiation science, the same methods apply for all sources (natural, medical and industrial) - there are no "loopholes" for particular radioisotopes!"

Firstly I maybe you want to say "particular committed doses"; obviously different isotopes have a different impact, as noted by another poster (and even the concept of committed dose is an artifact to compare apples and oranges but this is another story).

Secondly, and more importantly, doses might be created equal but profit and choice are not.

Natural sources are kind of hard to avoid (little choice) and not much linked to profit.

Medical sources are a sometimes easier to avoid but, when unavoidable, you get a direct diagnostic benefit in exchange from having been irradiated (the profit is yours).

Industrial doses are directly linked to someone else profit: a radiation source not properly disposed of, a vent filter not installed, a seawall a few meters too low.

As a consequence, limits for exposure from industrial sources are set lower than natural or medical and "radiation science" (radioprotection you wanted to say?) has nothing to do with this.


Anonymous said...

As far as I know both in Italy and in Japan there are regulations whereby some types of food only need to sit a few months in the respective country to be legally labeled as "domestic".
To me it looks like a fraud but since it is legal... Anyways, more to do with globalization and lobbying than the free market, I guess.
Buon appetito (@.@)

Anonymous said...

Corige: Excluding water 1500 gr/day, 550 kg/yr.

Anonymous said...

@Beppe 2:40 :
"Natural sources are kind of hard to avoid (little choice)…"

That only applies to the first 1-2 mSv/year. However (see above):
"Where I live the dose received from natural sources exceeds 5 mSv a year."

Most high-dose areas are due to radon, and this can be lowered strongly, by appropriate measures (airtight cellar + extra ventilation).

"…and not much linked to profit."
This is directly linked to profit, because radon risk mitigation (just like tsunami and meltdown risk mitigation) costs money to your landlord. So most likely, he simply will not measure radon. Don't ask, don't tell…

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that is exactly why I said "not much directly linked". If you are smart you move to a ventilated basement -- or out of basements. If you believe to banana propaganda, keep sniffing.

Anonymous said...

Long shadow is long.

Anonymous said...

The jam wasn't labeled as Italian, but as processed by an Italian company.
Company's website lists the origin of all the ingredients of its products; organic regulations in Europe call for statemens about origin: "EU agriculture", "Non EU agriculture" or the mix " "EU/Non EU agriculture"; if the origin of all ingredients is national, the company can claim it.
In this case no fraud occurred, as Bulgarian origin was clearly stated.
The company doesn't buy berrys in Bulgaria, but crops them in its own farms. It's normal that a processing company buys ingredients according on contract and in compliance with its standards (suited to its technological needs) or runs its own farm in regions in which the quality of products is fine.
The cocoa used to make Nutella comes from Africa, the palm oil from Asia, sugar probably comes from Poland, where is the propblem, if you don't mislabel the product as Italian? The recipe (and the processing plant) is form Italy even if raw materials come from elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

If there is no problem with radioactive food, then why did I see on the news that some stores in Japan have Geiger counters for people to use before they buy meats?
Our immune system does have to be kept up and, this blog is trying to make people aware! Why are you arguing with him over a jar of spread?
People need to juice organic fruits and veggies a few times a week. MRSA is killing more people now than AID's, (from the A.M.Journal) You drink contaminated tap water? Add them all together and you will have a thyroid disease, heart disease and worms eating holes in your brains. I knew a woman whose baby was sick. The doctor's here in NYC didn't know what was wrong with her. I asked her where she was from. She was from Russia near Chernobyl. I mean really? I had to tell her it was most likely from that? A little bit of this a little bit of that and bang. You got leukemia, or so many other degenerative diseases that can be prevented by knowledge.

Anonymous said...

9:08 AM, I agree with juicing organic fruits and veggies a couple of times a week. It's the secret to rejuvenation and healing.

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