JAPAN | Radioactive cesium found in 5 more tea refineries

Posted on June 16, 2011

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JAPAN | ASAHI SHIMBUN | 16 June 2011

SHIZUOKA–Tea leaves containing concentrations of radioactive cesium exceeding national safety standards were found in five more refineries here, officials of the Shizuoka prefectural government said June 14.

That brings the total number of refineries with cesium-laden tea leaves to six.

The prefectural government immediately ordered operators of the five plants to suspend shipments and voluntarily collect those that have been already shipped.

The health ministry’s Yokohama Quarantine Station inspected “seicha,” or refined tea leaves, of 20 refineries in the Warashina district of Shizuoka’s Aoi Ward on June 13 and 14. It detected concentration levels of radioactive cesium in five plants ranging from 581 to 654 becquerels per kilogram, higher than the national safety standards of 500 becquerels.

The levels of the other 15 refineries ranged from 161 to 499 becquerels.

Meanwhile, the prefectural government independently inspected tea made from tea leaves of two of the five refineries. It found only 5.8 to 7.3 becquerels of cesium, much lower than the national safety standards of 200 becquerels for drinking tea.

“We confirmed that even if you make drinking tea from tea leaves whose radioactive cesium exceeds the safety standards, they are safe,” said Shizuoka Governor Heita Kawakatsu.

The prefectural government plans to lift shipment bans and voluntary collection if it finds no problems in the inspections of “aracha,” or unrefined dried tea leaves, of this year’s second harvest.

On June 9, the prefectural government announced that 679 becquerels of radioactive cesium was detected in the Honyama brand of refined tea leaves of this year’s first harvest, which was produced in a refinery in the Warashina district.

Honyama brand tea is cultivated in 13 districts of Aoi and Suruga wards in Shizuoka.

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