Sunday, October 2, 2011

"Dilute and Sell" - #Radioactive Tea Blended with Non-Radioactive Tea

A tea producer blended the tea with radioactive cesium with the tea without radioactive cesium so that he could sell off his radioactive tea. An operator of a sewer sludge plant knowingly sold radioactive sludge to a manufacturer of garden soil because there was no national government standard when he sold it. Their reason: "It's safer that way, as radioactive cesium will be diluted".

Many Japanese consumers seem dismayed to find out that there are people among them who would do such a thing, but there are people like that, unfortunately. And as the article cites one government agency, it is clearly none of the government's business to do anything about it anytime soon.

From Tokyo Shinbun paper version (not online; 10/3/2011), extremely quick translation subject to revision later if necessary:

Dilute cesium and sell - blend tea, garden soil - so that the cesium level is below the limit

After the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident spread radioactive materials, the provisional safety limit was set for variety of foods and goods. If an item tests less than the provisional limit it is considered "guaranteed safe". As the result, there are businesses that mix [radioactive goods] with those made in places far away from Fukushima Prefecture to dilute radioactive materials and sell them. Currently it is not against the law to do so, but the consumers who doubt the safety of the products and the producers who fear further "baseless rumor" damages are voicing concern.


According to our research, we have been able to confirm instances of goods being sold after diluting the radioactive cesium content - garden soil and green teas.

In case of garden soil, sludge from water purification plants and sewage treatment plants had been used as an ingredient of the garden soil before the provisional safety limit for sludge was set. Sludge contains vital ingredients like phosphorus and potassium, and it is mixed with the soil at 10 to 20% ratio to make the garden soil.

The safety standard for radioactive materials in sludge was established on June 16, but some water purification plants in Kanagawa Prefecture had sold the total of 4,538 tonnes of sludge to the garden soil manufacturers from April up till June 16.

As for green tea, the tea producer was mixing the tea that passed the provisional safety limit but which still contained radioactive cesium with the tea made in Kyushu, far away from Fukushima I Nuke Plant. The blend was the radioactive tea 20%, the Kyushu tea 80%.

Most water purification plants had voluntarily stopped shipping the radioactive sludge until the provisional safety limit was decided. However, the company who runs this particular water purification plant that continued to ship says, "The detection level was low. If the sludge was made into the garden soil it would be diluted further". The company blames the manufacturers who bought the radioactive sludge, saying "The ultimate responsibility rests with those who make [the sludge] into final products and sell them". The company is currently selling the radioactive sludge to the businesses that supply dirt for construction projects, as the national government has sent out an instruction that "the use of radioactive sludge in the garden soil had better be suspended".

According to the green tea producer, there weren't enough of the tea leaves that passed the safety limit [but still contained radioactive cesium] to make it worthwhile to sell, so the company decided to mix it to make a "blend tea". The person in charge of the "blend tea" says "We made it clear in the package that it was a "blend tea", so there should be no problem. We just wanted to make the tea safer for the consumers".


These practices are not illegal, and when the contaminated products are mixed with non-contaminated products there should be less ill-effect on humans. However, if this "dilute and sell" model takes hold, it will only add to doubt and confusion for the consumers. Damage from "baseless rumors" may spread to milk and rice. It has been a standard practice to mix milk from different locations. The same goes for rice.

The national consumer association federation chief proposes the detailed labeling of the place of manufacture on a prefectural level so that the consumers can choose safely.

However, there is no law requiring the place of manufacture for the garden soil, and there is no voluntary guideline by the industry either. The national standard for food labeling only requires the label "Made in Japan" in the case of "blended" produce like rice and tea and processed foods; there is no requirement to show the name of prefecture where the product is made. The Consumer Affairs Agency of Japan [which is supposed to regulate the industries with the welfare of consumers in mind] is not going to do anything at this point, saying "Places of manufacture for the blended goods may change, so it is not practical to require detailed labels".

On the other hand, the head of the Worldwide Agricultural Policy Information Center is critical. He says "The role of the national government is to stop the spread of radioactive materials. To allow goods with radioactive materials to be diluted and and sold widely would be considered as approval by the national government to spread the contamination [all over Japan]". JA agricultural co-op Fukushima is also distrustful of the government policy [or lack thereof], saying "There will be no "baseless rumors" if the produce that is found with radioactive materials is not sold".

However, for now, we can only count on the voluntary effort by the industries. A new national policy would be necessary, just like when there was a problem of labeling "made in Japan" and "imported" goods.

It's funny and ironic that JA Fukushima says that, when it has been pushing radioactive produce to the rest of Japan, calling anyone who doesn't want to eat Fukushima produce as "discriminating against Fukushima people" and therefore "racist".


Anonymous said...

Was the government the first one to translate 不評 in English as "baseless rumors" instead of just "rumors"?

Stock said...

This dilute and sell is fairly commonplace, in some SU areas water has radium (from granite) and limit is 4 pci/liter. Gov recommends one course of action is to blend over limit water with underlimit water, and make it "safe", printed literature, not backroom dealings.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, I think people simply don't understand radioactivity. If it were cyanide contamination, blending would be an acceptable way to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, radionucleotides can't be metabolised to safe biproducts.

Blame ignorance, not malice.

Anonymous said...

It is (almost) funny, there is a publicity for Japanese Tea on the site of this page.

Anonymous said...

@laprimavera: can you disclose the name of the producer of the blended tea?

Anonymous said...

'It's funny and ironic that JA Fukushima says that, when it has been pushing radioactive produce to the rest of Japan, calling anyone who doesn't want to eat Fukushima produce as "discriminating against Fukushima people" and therefore "racist".'

Lol! ''There will be a panic by autumn''. This is the kind of reaction you get when people don't understand the situation and your government is telling porkies to you.
There has to be a better way of helping Fukushima farmers then eating radioactive/contaminated produce. Japanese people should be standing behind Fukushima farmers demanding compensation from Tepco and the government instead of sitting on their bone idle, selfish asses looking the other way hoping some poor other creature gobbles up Tohoku's finest fresh farm produce.
I can tell you when I go shopping I reject stuff that has even been packaged in Chiba. Lettuce from Nagano? You must be joking! I'll do without. As for Fukushima stuff you'd have to be INSANE to go out and buy it. But this is not the farmers fault and nor does it mean that I am 'rascist' or un patriotic. Rather that I have a brain and healthy children and would like to keep it that way.
All government employees and civil servants should be forced to buy Fukushima produce IMO. If they have a problem with that then they should resign or protest. No immediate health concerns, eh? My ass. You will find out in 20-30 years all about health risks and of what good being a patriot and eating Fukushima JA produce. Guess what? No none will listen to you then as you proceed through the courts like the people of Minamata. The politicians and the criminals at Tepco will be dead and all you'll get is a shoulder of sympathy, a few lesson plans for social studies JHSchools and a little sad book about victimisation if you are lucky. Meanwhile your kids will have a scar around their throats as a reminder of their loyalty to Fukushima farmers. Fuk you and RIP.
Japanese people need to wake up to the problems that they can no longer sweep under the carpet and hope disappear.

Atomfritz said...

This is so sad.

This spreading off radioactive pollution around the whole country will eventually make whole Japan a radioactively spotted country.

Every garden could become a "hot spot" just below the legal limit if the owner cannot test the soil he purchases for contamination, if even he is aware of this risk.

But, as another commenter mentioned, this has the advantage that it will become almost impossible to draw a connection between detrimental health effects as cancers and the Fukushima accident, even if it will show up in the long-term statistics. Very convenient for the Japan, Inc. companies, as suers cannot easily prove the connection to the contamination.

And other major contamination distribution via radwaste incineration using high smoke stacks that also hits all other northern hemisphere countries will help obscure the health effects.

Too sad that all major countries are members in the nuclear club, and so are very lenient, as every one of them could be next big polluter if their nuke plants poof.

L Lewis said...

Are they exporting that tea to the US? Because products that are blended to reduce radioactive contamination are not legal in the US.

"The blending of contaminated food with uncontaminated food is not permitted because this is a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDA 1991)."

Potentially, this practice can be discouraged by giving it worldwide attention. Does anyone know of other blended products?

netudiant said...

It is incomprehensible that the Japanese government is so careless with Japanese foodstuffs reputation in the world.

It would be easy and fairly cheap to buy up the agricultural produce of the worst hit areas. It should be destroyed, thereby protecting the reputation of the rest of Japans farms.
If that is too wasteful a step, it could perhaps be used as cattle feed until about 10 weeks before slaughter. It the cattle have clean feed for the last few weeks of their lives, they will have excreted the ingested cesium through normal cell renewal.

Either way, wrapping all of Japan's agriculture into a cloud of possible contamination while insisting of hair splitting definitions of safe levels of radioactivity is dreadfully stupid policy. Has common sense gone entirely missing within Japan's leadership?

Atomfritz said...

Indeed, I wonder if buying up contaminated food would have cost these 500 billion yen.

On the other hand, I doubt foodstuff makes up a big part of Japan's exports.

But, the reputation damage is probably irreparable.
When I was in Berlin some months ago, many sushi bars had signs with the text "We do not use Japanese foodstuff or fish from waters near Japan! Our food is safe!", trying to assure their customers that they can eat without fear.

Viola said...

I believe this kind of non-reaction of the japanese government can only result in mistrust in ANY product coming out of Japan.
We all can clearly see they don't give a s**t for their citizens; but a least they should be aware of the consequences on export in general...

Anonymous said...

It's of vital importance to know the name of this seller...

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

@Alex75, no such info is given in the article at all. Sorry.

And yes, Google Ads has some weird sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

I tend to follow Arnie G's theory on the topic.

i.e. it is like shooting 10 bullets into an arena of 10,000 people. The pain does not get averaged out. Even you mix with 1 million people, 10 people will get seriously hurt.

Radiation does not break down and dissolve.

I guess the government is trying to spread the radiation out to the rest of the country so that in the end there is no way to find the connection between death by low doses of radiation.

James said...

It's doubly perverse, as in one sense the Government has already bought up the produce through massive agricultural subsidies. For example on rice, pre-disaster production subsidies already amounted to 700% of production cost. So under the banner of 'domestic food security' and 'supporting rural life', Japan is excluding imports and propping up local farmers anyway.

Government is also forcing farmers to crop heavily contaminated land just to become eligible for compensation at the other end. If they just redirected production linked subsides directly to farms, they could pay affected farmers not to produce and it would cost nothing extra. Half of them are already over retirement age any way!

On the supply side, Japan is now poisoning the urban majority to support the rural minority, driven by the same archaic notions of 'Japanese national identity' and 'food security' which compels the average consumer to choose the suspect Fukushima rice over 'unsafe' imports at the other end of the chain.

Anonymous said...

You wouldn't want to be the only one in Japan without a tumor, would you? The future of Japan is Tumors and you wouldn't want to be left out. The shame of not having a huge lump sticking out of your neck or of being strong enough to work when all your family and neighbors are down with leukemia might be too much shame. I'm so tired of being polite about this. Please Japan save yourself!

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