Tuesday, September 6, 2011

(Guest Post) How to Source Radioactive Material-Free Food in Japan: Food Co-Op

Not all co-ops (grocery stores operated as cooperatives) are equal, but some are decidedly more customer-friendly (as opposed to producer-friendly) and take care in sourcing the food that are not contaminated with radioactive materials AND disclosing the detailed information of their testing.

One of the readers of this blog, William Marcus, has sent me his observations on sourcing the safe food in Japan. William currently lives in Osaka with his family with the toddler son. He says co-ops in Japan are not centralized (which I didn't know), and that more east and north you go co-ops tend not to disclose the details of the testing they do (if they do the testing) on the foodstuff they sell.

The particular COOP that he recommends is "Shizenha" co-op headquartered in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture and has operations in Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku region. The co-op, he says, has just started to accept membership from Kanto and Tohoku regions.


I live in Osaka and sourcing clean food for our toddler son has become the biggest concern of ours, after monitoring the fallout plumes and contamination in our vicinity (which thankfully, seems to be quite limited compared to California, my home state). We have always been interested in buying healthy food and have belonged to COOP for many years.

You may or may not know that COOP is not centralized -- there is no national standard for COOPs; they are regionally managed, but their membership can be quite spread out; so we recently joined a COOP (Shizenha; based in Shikoku/West Japan) that is quite more transparent in testing and showing the results of these radiation tests. Our original COOP ("S-COOP") is also doing more testing and has invested another 5 million yen in more testing equipment and outsourcing their testing to a subcontractor as well, but they won't disclose the results of the testing -- only if it is above or below the current (inflated), permitted government safety limit. Shizenha has a different 'feel' to it, and discloses the results of their testing weekly both on their website and in the order forms that we receive weekly.

Basically, the story is this: the further north and east you go, the less likely the COOPs are to disclose testing results as this might well embarrass their long-standing farming/food sources, while to the south and west, this is less likely to happen as their food sources are generally less suspect.

Often, when I read your blog, which I admire and recommend widely, the reports of contaminated food are then commented on by the readers as proof that sourcing food is dangerous and tricky, when actually, if one knows the resources, it is not the case. COOP generally charges 10-20% more than your typical retail supermarkets, but the more radical of the COOPs (like Shizenha) go further by indicating exactly who is tested and what is found. If those who are really concerned about finding safe food for their families are aware of this, they can also benefit from membership to the more transparent COOPs (others probably do exist which I'm not aware of). As of this week, Shizenha will allow shipping to the northern parts of Japan (for a bigger, refundable membership deposit of 20,000 yen vs. the regular 10,000), in an effort to obviously shame the other COOPs who are more hesitant to state reality as it really is, into being more forthcoming with the testing results.

There is a war on food truth that is building steam, and it is in the south and west of Japan that is pushing the envelop on that front, or so it seems to us here in Kansai, at least.

I was in Kyushu for a week last week, visiting in-laws and it was noted by my Japanese partner and in-laws how many people are migrating permanently from Tohoku and Kanto regions -- the cars were obvious and multiple: middle-class and upper-class vans and sedans; the well-heeled are evacuating -- lucky them. . . sad for those not able to do the same, which speaks to the class-based availability of safety recourse in Japan these days (and COOP membership to a degree also represents this with its mark-up).

The other notable thing in Kyushu was how prominently nearly all restaurants advertised their local sourcing of ingredients. This doesn't happen at all in Osaka/Kyoto, which is owing to a few different explanations: not to offend, not to heighten fear, or because the ingredients are suspect, etc.

Likely we will also gravitate to Kyushu in the coming year, as at present only COOP is able to provide assurances with our food concerns, whereas in Kyushu, that is much, much less of a concern, and the food is cheaper. . .

Thanks again for your fantastic blog -- it is unique and serving an invaluable service in this incredible nightmare that is ongoing. I hope this sheds some light on the food safety countermeasures that n.p.o.'s are enacting to guarantee the food supply.

Also, it is evident in Osaka that food origin is getting harder to ascertain in the regular retail supermarkets, as indicated by anecdotes of many friends using conventional stores.


While "Shizenha" co-op is not party to the Fukushima Prefecture's PR effort to push Fukushima produce, other co-ops are eagerly selling. One of my Japanese blog readers says her co-op in Kansai has been pushing Fukushima produce (vegetables and fruits) ever since this spring by holding special campaign events at the store. But as William says, each co-op is different, and it is worthwhile to investigate. It is also good to know that people in Kanto and Tohoku may now be able to purchase from a Kansai-based co-op.

There is also a grassroots campaign to establish volunteer radiation measuring stations throughout Japan, modeled after the one in Fukushima City (Citizen's Radioactivity Measuring Station), where anyone can bring in a food item and have it tested.

As this blog's subtitle says, "Don't count on your government".


Apolline said...

Hello from France :


Shame on TEPCO !

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@helios, well, shame on Kan for causing the Reactor 1 explosion and lying about everything else that happened afterwards...

Understanding of TEPCO's staff at Fukushima is decidedly different from PM's recollection.

Anonymous said...

What is important in this guest post--people are starting to verify their food sources and are not blindly following PR guidence. The information of a middle-upper class migration is also interesting--and may explain why the Immigration records/counts for Japanese migration to the USA, Canada, Australia showed NA (not available) in the data records. This may have been updated but June/July and August were marked NA while the other countries showed figures.

Great post to read and learn more of the day to day situation in parts of Japan!

Anonymous said...

I have been to Kyushu this summer. I noticed products-fruits and vegetables-from Tohoku at the supermarkets. On the way back we bought o-bento at the train station; it had mushrooms and I don't remember which other root-vegetable from Tohoku as specified in the label...I guess you must be cautious about food in Kyushu too, I also noticed people there are almost unaware of the threat from food coming from the north-east (I mean, more unaware than in other parts of Japan!). On the other side, it would be easier to select safe products in Kyushu as it is mainly an agricultural land and there is plenty of local products and farms. But again, I would not trust processed food and school lunches as well.

My in-laws are also from Kyushu, they proposed us to move over there temporarily or permanently according to the job offers...however, we are thinking to leave Japan, it sounds better for our kid. I mean...they were not able to stop contaminated food by spreading all over Japan, then think what it might be with the rest of the things of everyday use. Think if you buy a radioactive refrigerator, or computer, or carpet, or...whatever it might be. Are we going to trace all what we buy, or to test it before putting it permanently in our home?

My friend lives in Tohoku and she buys only online directly from farms in the south, she adviced me these sites:

It sells meat and veg. from Kyushu.

These are vegetables from Okayama's farm:

This is also sponsored as safe food:

Guy Jean said...

Useful information, William, thanks. But you might spare us your flawed "class-based" economic analyses.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@Guy Jean, in his defense, there seems to be the element of that, actually, from what I hear from my acquaintances. Not all who escape are middle-class, and not all who stay are working-class poor, but there's a huge resentment and divide between the two which could be called "class". Those who can afford financially and psychologically, and whose who cannot.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the food information. Though as a gaijin who will be living in Japan for just two years, it is nearly impossible to use these sites to find local, safe food. At the moment we are trying to buy only import food which I totally disagree with from an environmental perspective but we seem to have little choice. Before the accident we were buying food from our very local supermarket.

I think if you put the site, even just basic info into English, you would get many gaijin, who want to buy Japanese produce, start to buy from the coop. This would then pressure other outlets to improve their testing to the benefit of all. Unfortunately, in our commercial world, this seems to be the only real point at which people change - the market of capitalism says no, we won't buy radioactive food no matter how safe you say it is!!

I just wish they would stop pretending all is ok and get on with providing safe, none radioactive food to the citizens. And at the same time support /compensate the farmers for their loss.

Is this not a governments first responsibility -the safety of its citizens? Unfortunately, I think the only way to make real change is the market - just don't buy it, but to drive this you have to have food outlets showing the test results or NGO's testing and showing brands results!! Well done Shizenha!! (but English please...\(^o^)/ )

Anonymous said...

Dear blogger,

I remember Japan does import food from other countries. (for example Australian beef?)

Do COOPs or other retail supermarkets actually sell imported food/drinks?


arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@anon at 12:13AM, yes they do. Particularly after the severity of March 11 accident became more widely known. My family members are buying Australian beef, and fish from Chile and Russia. Fresh vegetables seem to be problematic in Kanto. There are "rumors" of faking the origin - carrots grown in Fukushima disguised as carrots grown in Aomori, for example. One Korean company was caught selling fish from Fukushima to Japanese as "caught in Korea".

Anonymous said...

@Guy Jean, can you elaborate on why you think William's observation is flawed? It certainly jibes with what I see in Kansai, plus it's well-documented how the rich-poor gap is widening in Japan. Am curious what prompted your reaction.

Kyotoresident said...

It's quite likely that a lot of families have sent wives and children to stay with in-laws in Kyushu. It's also likely that a lot of the high end vehicles seen iIn Kyushu were there on summer vacation. Im at this moment driving back after a week in Kyushu. To be honest, during the week I havent noticed many non-Kyushu number plates.

One reason I can't imagine much of a migration pattern to kyushu is because there are not many employment opportunities there.

Wm. Marcus said...

@Kyotoresident: I thought so at first, but was reminded of the fact that for those distances, families more often fly down/take Shinkansen and then rent a car; far cheaper and faster. Plus it was confirmed by quite a few Japanese living there. Very subjective, of course, but that was the anecdotal evidence.

@Guy Jean: Glad you liked the info. As for the 'flawed analysis,' I wasn't writing as a journalist or blogger -- this was correspondence that I permitted to be used. If you want to have a more detailed discussion of why I think class is playing a large factor in recourse, I'll be happy to dialogue with you -- I'm on Facebook or you can provide the venue/email address.

@Anonymous at 4:37: I agree -- processed foods will be suspect everywhere, including Kyushu, but for those who realize cooking is the healthier way to go, the selection and safety are notable in Kyushu, as you acknowledge. I also concur with the issue of newly manufactured items -- they will pose a threat, as well as the increased harm of second-hand smoke, now that we read (on this blog) that it is 'hot' and not so 'cool' anymore. . .

@ex-skf: thank you for the opportunity to share and I hope that more people will provide each other with information on safer ways of life and living in the aftermath of this disaster.

Anonymous said...

I've also decided to leave Japan.

If you want to eat in restaurants ever, if you want to eat any kind of processed food, if you want to send your kids to school, if you want to buy any kind of Japanese-made product, basically if you want to live in this country, it will involve some kind of unknown risk. Sometimes I find myself wondering how safe the toilet paper is.

The ignorance, or maybe denial, in how things are handled is the most disconcerting part. I feel bad seeing so many people oblivious to the risk, from teenagers on the train drinking bottled green tea, to nursery school workers advising parents not to worry and to trust the government.

One thing I've noticed (in Kansai anyway) is that people just don't want to worry about it. They want to go about their pleasant lives as normal. Maybe it's part of the culture. Later they'll probably act like victims, but they probably won't blame themselves. They'll probably blame a foreign country even though they mostly brought it upon themselves. I feel bad for Japan, but there's not much that can be done to change an entire culture's way of reasoning.

Anonymous said...

If some people in Japan and the surrounding areas do not know please inform them that kombucha, green tea and also cold pressed flax oil can protect you from cancer. Gunter Frank's book on kombucha is very good to read about preparation and things of that nature. Dr. Johanna Budwig who was a quantum physicist and MD cured her cancer patients with flax oil and diet change. There are books published in English that you can get online.

Anonymous said...

There is a great product called NCD- Natural Cellular Defense which is a negative-charged mineral that can remove radioactive isotopes safely from the body.I am suggesting that anyone concerned check out this information.

felice miller said...

This is an Excerpt from Dr Cousen’s latest March Newsletter

Today, although our focus is on Japan’s nuclear power plant disaster and tsunamis, we actually have a variety of radiation exposures that have been with us since the 1960’s. Nuclear plant meltdowns are the most serious threat that we most immediately share, but there are also accidents at sterilization and food radiation facilities, which have in the past released cesium 137 as well as cobalt 60. There are also routine leaks and emissions from common devices and equipment that use nuclear technologies such as x-rays, mammograms, CAT-scans, and full-body scans. We also have radiation exposure from accidents at nuclear weapons sites, nuclear submarine accidents, radon gas, and cigarette smoking. Microwave towers, cell phones, and this whole new technology are additional major sources of cancer causing radiation exposure. We are literally drowning in a continual sea of radiation exposure. The earth changes that have brought about the Japanese nuclear disaster have given us another opportunity to wake up to what is happening. Our total radiation cultural exposure is a symptom and a reflection of our struggle between the Culture of Death and the transition into the Culture of Life. In this context, a nuclear meltdown at a power plant is not our sole concern, although it is a major acute problem. Last, but not least, is the nuclear fall-out from depleted uranium ammunition, missiles, and bombs, and nuclear war. All are happening within these times of complicated earth and consciousness changes.
I strongly recommend Natural Cellular Defense (NCD) to move elements out of the kidneys safely and effectively, as well as from the rest of the body. Researchers have estimated that it is up to 9-20 times a more powerful chelator than naturally occurring zeolites because of its purification and empty shell. It has been explicitly shown in research to pull out radiation, heavy metals, and radioactive minerals. The research on the use of zeolite in Chernobyl show that giving 1-2 zeolite cookies per day cleared all radiation after 3 days for adults and children. However, the zeolite powders primarily remove the radioactive minerals from the intestines, whereas the NCD, which is micronized and purified, not only cleans the gut, but moves through the intestines into the body’s tissues and circulatory system to remove radiation particles from the blood and brain. This is remarkable. NCD plays an important role against radioactive minerals, which it specifically chelates throughout the body. This is the most powerful chelating agent we have available to us and I strongly recommend 10 drops, 4 times daily for maintenance and up to 10 drops 6 times, daily, for acute exposure. NCD has also proven very effective in removing depleted uranium from the system. It is the number one chelating agent for all types of radioactive minerals.

For more information:

Kyotoresident said...

Forgot to say thanks for the information. Buying food is becoming a real concern.
I stocked up on rice in Kyushu but fruit and veg is more of a problem. I'm really missing eating out. I'm surprised restaurants aren't displaying the sources of their food. Some family restaurants are but when it comes to rice, there is nothing more detailed than "produced in japan".

I would also like to leave Japan or put more space between my family and Fukushima. However, im not holding out much chance of finding a decent job in the short term.

Anonymous said...

here is a question for anyone living in Japan, please take your time for answering. In regard of all those problems with foods, you are all used to take foods from west Japan especially from Kyushu, Shikoku, Chugoku or even Hyogo prefecture. In other Osaka-Kyoto area, they don't inform about food origins, they don't even testing foods, do you think it is safe to eat foods originated from other those part of kansai or it is better to stay on guards and only be confident with extrem west of japan foods ? I heard many times Co-op from kansai area (except hyogo but especially osaka and kyoto) try to secretly sell food items from tohoku or kanto (fukushima, miyagi, ibaraki, tochigi, and southern part of kanto), is it real ?

Anonymous said...

i mean why don't they simply use food items from their own region ? Is it just because of money ? because foods from tohoku or kanto area are way more cheaper ? please enlight me on the reasons

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