Radioactive cesium exceeding the legal limit was detected in tea made in a factory in Shizuoka City, more than 300 kilometers away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Shizuoka Prefecture is one of the most famous tea producing areas in Japan.
A tea distributor in Tokyo reported to the prefecture that it detected high levels of radioactivity in the tea shipped from the city. The prefectural government confirmed the contamination on Thursday, detecting 679 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium. The legal limit is 500 becquerels.
The prefecture ordered the factory to refrain from shipping out the product.
After the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, radioactive contamination of tea leaves and processed tea has been found over a wide area around Tokyo.
But the Japan Times reports today:
Shizuoka Prefecture told a Tokyo-based mail order company not to say anything on its website about excessive radioactive material being found in tea from the prefecture, the retailer said Friday.
After Radishbo-ya Co. made an inquiry to the Shizuoka Prefectural Government about the matter Monday, a prefectural official told the company not to disclose the finding due to fears the message would cause unwarranted harm to Shizuoka tea growers, adding that the prefecture would confirm the finding on its own, according to the retailer.
Radishbo-ya, for its part, sent purchasers of the tea letters informing them about the radiation and offered to recall the products.
Shizuoka is a famous tea production area.
Of course, human nature is to try to cover things up, and with Japan’s economy in a tough place, the temptation is even higher. So even if Shizuoka is now (after-the-fact), admitting radiation problems, many other districts might not … at least not in a timely fashion.
As Alexander Higgins notes, it is 300 miles by car from Fukushima to Shizuoka:
It would be nice to assume that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, EPA or other agencies are screening imports for radiation.
But given that the FDA previously assured everyone that Japanese fish were safe, that government agencies have largely stopped testing for airborne radiation and responded to the crisis by proposing that radiation standards be raised, and given that our agencies are not even really testing seafood in the Gulf for pollution, I am not so hopeful.