Local Radioactive Tea
Local farmers have been thrown into confusion after the health and farm ministries expressed differing views over shipments of tea harvested in Kanagawa Prefecture after fresh leaves were found to have exceeded government limits for radioactive cesium.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has been trying to restrict shipments of tea leaves from the prefecture about 300 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant due to health concerns. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, however, has claimed that despite the high levels of radioactive material, drinking tea made from the leaves would be safe because the radioactive material would be diluted.
One tea farmer in the prefecture grumbled, "I have no idea what's going to happen. I want them to clear things up."
The radiation safety limit for tea leaves is 500 becquerels per kilogram, the same as for vegetables, while the limit for tea drinks is 200 becquerels per kilogram, the same as for drinking water.
There have been no reports of drinks exceeding the 200-becquerel limit made from radiation-contaminated tea leaves. But fresh tea leaves harvested May 9-12 in six municipalities in the prefecture were found to have been contaminated with more than 500 becquerels of radioactive material.
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