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The Arbor Teas Blog

Japanese Tea and Radiation: Update

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As many of you may know, the 2011 tea harvest is well underway in Japan. With the devastating effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which badly damaged Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, there has been a lot of speculation in the marketplace regarding the safety of Japanese tea. While much of the fearful chatter over irradiated Japanese products has subsided in recent weeks, concerns still abound.

Arbor Teas has begun to receive Japanese tea from the 2011 harvest. We've pulled together some important facts which we hope will help our customers understand the status of this issue (and, without diminishing the significance of this event, perhaps relieve some concerns).

1) No Japanese tea - either freshly picked or packaged - has been discovered to be contaminated by radioactive particles. (Update 6/1/11 - Unfortunately this is no longer true.  Radioactive cesium in newly harvested tea has been detected. Shipments of all the tea from the area were suspended pending additional tests. Please see comments below for more details.  We are working with our suppliers to have samples of their 2011 crop tested for radiation and will post them when available.)

2) Virtually all of Japan's tea is grown at least 200 to 300 kilometers south of the radiation source. Tea grown in Kagoshima, the nation’s second largest growing region, is on the island of Kyushu, thousands of kilometers away from Fukushima - a distance equivalent to traveling from New York to Denver. Arbor Teas sources the majority of its Japanese tea from the Kagoshima Prefecture. Below, we've provided a list of the prefectures from which each of our Japanese teas originate:

Organic Bancha Green Tea -- Kagoshima Prefecture
Organic Genmaicha Green Tea -- Shizuoka prefecture
Organic Genmaicha Extra Green Tea – Kagoshima Prefecture
Organic Gyokuro Green Tea - Kagoshima Prefecture
Organic Houjicha Green Tea -- Kagoshima Prefecture
Organic Kukicha Green Tea - Kagoshima Prefecture
Organic Matcha Green Tea - Aichi Prefecture
Organic Sencha Green Tea - Kagoshima Prefecture

3) The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant is along Japan’s eastern seaboard. Prevailing winds blow east, pushing the fallout over the Pacific Ocean away from land and tea growing areas.

4) Japanese inspectors are testing foods at the source. Japan banned the export of any food products with unusually high readings, despite the fact that these readings are generally below health damaging thresholds. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on April 27 that 39 food samples were tested by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in late April from eight prefectures (Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Hokkaido, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Niigata and Yamagata). According to the IAEA, "Analytical results for all of the samples of various vegetables, mushrooms, beef, seafood and raw unprocessed milk indicated that I-131, Cs-134 and Cs-137 were either not detected or were below the regulation values set by the Japanese authorities."

5) The 2011 tea harvest is well underway, and processing facilities, port authorities and food inspectors in various importing countries are checking for radiation. Stocks of teas that were packaged and stored distant from the fallout zone have been checked.

6) Arbor Teas sells tea that is certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program, which requires far more testing and scrutiny than conventionally-produced tea.

Japan Map

Reference: World Tea News, April 25, 2011