Posts Tagged ‘food’

Asahi Shimbun Japanese version reported that Yamada, the governor of Kyoto prefecture paid a secret visit to the small town of Kyotamba on March 28, in order to ask its mayor to accept incinerated radioactive waste and dispose of it, on the basis that the incinerator output would be better monitored there and that Kyotamba has 9 hectares of land as well as a river where to dump radioactive ashes. The mayor replied that he would think about the proposal positively, which is a way to acknowledge agreement provided that the brown envelope is fat enough.

Actual incineration would take place in undisclosed facilities in Kyoto prefecture, such as in Maizuru, Kyoto and Kameoka. Governor Yamada makes no secret about his plan to accept radioactive waste for incineration, but every move he makes towards its implementation is undemocratic and behind the scenes, a strategy also used by Goshi Hosono, the Minister of Environment who is pushing for nationwide spread of radioactive contamination.  (Updated on 2012/04/10)

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Yesterday, I was in Osaka to commemorate Japan Meltdown Day, March 11. My plan was to join one of the protest events organized that day and which none of the English language newspapers mentioned. If you looked up Osaka in the news, you would probably hit some story about sumo. Some Japanese newspapers started to report more accurately the disastrous situation in which Japan is getting deeper everyday. However, their focus remains the No Man’s Land, i.e. Tokyo and North-East Japan, which incidentally is the raison d’etre of SurvivalJapan. Besides, this defiant attitude costs them to lose access to the government press club and a Japanese journalist friend of mine told me that this particular newspaper was on the verge of bankruptcy. This is Japan, not Singapore, but the press is not free to speak. It is a concern if the only newspaper that tries to speak out is about to shut down.

So I arrived late for events in Osaka yesterday and missed them. Ten thousands people were to gather in the morning at the large hall of the City Hall on Nakanoshima isle. In the afternoon, protesters marched along one of three different paths converging towards KEPCO headquarters, Midosuji and Nishi-Umeda. A foreign friend of mine who attended told me that the crowd was lively and angry at the government and utilities yet very friendly and enjoying themselves. Japanese information on this “Bye Bye Gempatsu (Nuclear Power) 3/11 Kansai 10,000 Protesters Event” is available on this website. I walked alone from Umeda to Nakanoshima Park and all trace of the meeting of 10,000 had disappeared.

I was hoping to catch up with the “humanError national 100,000 participants parade” after the incredibly spot-on recording by the Frying Dutchman near Kamogawa river and Sanjo St. in Kyoto, a group of Japanese artists. They show that not every Japanese youth is self-centered and disconnected from reality, they are the future of Japan if this country solidifies again – and if yakuza don’t kill them. Frying Dutchman sees right through the enemies of Japan and their non-violent message is ultimately about love. They were touring in Okinawa yesterday but were followed all over the country. Their website is available in English here and you can watch their video with English subtitles. Frying Dutchman’s message resonates so strongly in our hearts that it is impossible to watch without tears in our eyes, for us who live through this never-ending disaster. The video has been seen by more than 150,000 viewers on YouTube alone as of writing and is fast becoming viral. I am sad because I know that most people who have not experienced living in melted down Japan will not understand. Actually most of the foreigners still living in Japan chose to close their eyes and ears to their environment: it is so easy to ignore the evil spirit which now inhabits every bit of Japan. It will take the same human error again and again, in each country, like blind earthworms hit the electric wire time and again without understanding, until we are all burnt and eventually get a hint.

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The last nuclear power plant reactor in Kyushu was taken off-line towards the end of December 2011, leaving the Japanese southern island free of nuclear produced-electricity. Off-line reactors are not necessarily safe in case of earthquake, tsunami or human error, all of which are far too common in Japan to allow such utilities to be but ticking bombs.

It is however a first step towards a nuclear-free island, which produces most of the domestic food, including beef (the famous so-called “Kobe beef” is raised in Miyazaki, Kyushu) now that Hokkaido is contaminated. Besides nuclear fallout, the town of Tomakomai in Hokkaido decided to incinerate nuclear waste against the will of citizens, as reported in Tomakomai Minpo on 2011 December 8. The translated and commented article is available on Ex-SKF blog here. Tomakomai is located on the southern shore, about 50 km / 30 miles away from Sapporo, with a mostly residential / industrial plain between these cities (agricultural products come mainly from Tokachi plain on the east coast which has been under nuclear fallout most of spring and summer 2011).

Politicians and executives will likely get away with public opinion manipulation and other scandals in Kyushu as articles below show: a mere salary cut whereas in some more democratic countries, they might have been jailed. Besides, the Nishinippon Shimbun newspaper cancelled the publication of an anti-nuclear book due to pression from the same utility, which shows that public opinion manipulation is deeply rooted in Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Kyushu political institutions. Indeed, Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa is assured to get a highly paid sinecure in Kyushu Electric Power Co. after he “retires”.

Kyushu is the last large clean food producer in Japan and it has not accepted any nuclear waste for incineration yet: it may as well become the future of Japan.

Hereafter are reproduced several articles found in Japanese news in December 2011, as original articles might become unavailable soon: (more…)

Safe food is getting scarcer in Japan, even out of the no man’s land, in what I call the monitored land. Surviving in Japan supposes boycotting any food from areas northeastern of Nagoya included and of course any sea product from the North Pacific Ocean. This strict rule makes shopping complicated but nowhere as eating out. The end of the year brings a new threat in traditional food gifts that Japanese offer, i.e. “oseibo” (in Japanese 「お歳暮」. It is hard to be always on one’s guard and make rational choices as to what to eat and it is socially a burden when one constantly has to ask for the source of ingredients of any food in shops and restaurants. Furthermore, when the temptation is from one’s relatives and friends, it is almost impossible for anyone to resist and discard the gift, like Snow White could not decline the shiny red apple for the gentle old, poor woman who actually was intent on killing her.

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Concerned mothers made a formal declaration and held a press conference at Osaka Prefecture Main Building (Osaka-fu-cho, in Japanese 「大阪府庁」) on Friday, December 16th at 10:00 am. A panel of three mothers read a declaration stating that the plan of Osaka Mayor, M. Hashimoto, to accept radioactive waste from Iwate prefecture for incineration, is harmful for children. The declaration was received by three prefecture representatives, one who asked genuine questions, another who seemed condescending and the third who kept quiet. The most visible news team was ABC News. The room was small and supporters, mostly standing up, numbered about 50. There were only three Western foreigners present including myself.

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Butter in Japan mainly comes from its northern island Hokkaido, along with many dairy products such as milk, which is at the center of the latest radioactive food scandal.

The east coast of Hokkaido was visited by radioactive fallout from Fukushima most Spring and Summer days. Fishermen bring in their catch from radioactive Pacific Ocean close to Fukushima so that fish can be sold nationwide as products “from Hokkaido”. It is rumored to arrive at night in Nagoya for distribution throughout Japan. Domestic fish has become a major public health hazard in Japan and is exported worldwide.

There might be some safe areas left in Hokkaido but the prefecture lost all my trust for allowing various food scams to support contaminated regions. Besides it’s impossible to tell where in Hokkaido butter comes from, much less which milk and cream were used as ingredients.

A popular butter in Japan is the Snow Brand Hokkaido Butter, from the company that poisoned 15000 Japanese in 2000 and secretly recycled old milk to make other products – not to be trusted in these trying times. (more…)

A lot of the rationale of supporters of non-evacuating Tokyo seems to revolve around the notion of hotspots. Hotspots are limited areas in which ground radiation spikes up compared to the surroundings. Although radiation is not negligible in Tokyo, some argue that it is even higher in similar cities where there hasn’t been any known nuclear incident, such as Hong Kong with more than 0.3 uSv/h at 1m above ground. Tokyo hotspots detected in Setagaya, around the Imperial Palace, etc. were not very satisfactorily explained in the news by the supposed presence of radium bottles left over (same explanation used several times).

Tokyo cityscape changes continually and buildings may disappear suddenly as one visits a street after a few years. Besides construction work and demolitions, low to medium intensity earthquakes regularly shake the city and cause shelves, TV sets, etc. to fall and smash on floors. It is difficult to imagine radium bottles lying around for 50 years untouched in these ever-moving conditions. Such bold statements from the government were largely accepted by the population who is eager to cling to any reassuring explanation for their hotspots.

Hotspots are perceived to be like rotten apples in an otherwise healthy basket, singularities which statisticians can dismiss in order to focus on the average radiation environment. Scarcity of hotspots seem to support this view, however monitoring is imperfect and reporting even worse.

Shortly after March eleven, a green tea grower from Shizuoka prefecture (south-west of Tokyo and near the Mount Fuji) reported that his tea was radiation-hot after he got it analyzed on a voluntary basis (Cf. link to New York Times story in Analysis Of Japanese Government Radiation Spread Report on SurvivalJapan). Panic followed among green tea growers who made sure that none of them would ever carry their tea leaves to a laboratory again. This is anecdotal but it illustrates how hotspots are discovered and buried in Japan. Therefore hotspots tend to seem isolated whereas, if the population wanted to seriously investigate, there might be more rotten apples.

Here is another anecdote: in the farming village from where I buy local vegetables and rice, I proposed a foreign friend of mine who grows organic food there to make some radioactivity measures – and in order to make it significant, to get organized with the local Japanese community and offer to check out their fields and rice paddies too. My friend replied that such discussions had already taken place and that the consensus was that, although it would nice to know that the soil is safe, it would have a devastating effect with commercial consequences, should we find anything unusual. I discreetly made a measurement there which showed it was alright (0.125 uSv/h with Inspector Alert right next to the wet, black soil) and told my friend about it. From reading the news and hearing people talks, I am convinced this is a relevant example of farmers’ attitude with respect to radiation monitoring nationwide – and hence the explanation of the scarcity of reported hotspots.

Hotspots monitoring in Japan is like searching for a sick tree at the edge of a forest, cutting the tree down and never look in this place again. (more…)

The Beer In Japan post on SurvivalJapan offered some advice on how to choose food products with minimal radiation exposure risk in an environment devoid of reliable information source, with beer as an example. Three months ago, my post titled Safer Food Quest warned about such Tokyo-headquartered dairy product companies as Meiji, which distributes milk of course, but also chocolate snacks, ice cream, etc. Warning eventually became a scandal – one in many to come in Japan criminal food industry – as reported by Bloomberg today (read the article below).

Bloomberg – Cesium in Meiji Milk Powder Spurs Recall Amid Radiation Threat

By Kanoko Matsuyama, Dec. 6

Radioactive cesium was found in milk powder made by a Meiji Holdings Co. unit, Kyodo News said, causing the shares to fall the most in eight months and raising concern that nuclear radiation is contaminating baby food.

Meiji, Japan’s largest supplier of infant formula, is voluntarily recalling 400,000 cans of its “Meiji Step” brand product, which may have been contaminated by radiation leaked from the Fukushima nuclear plant, Kyodo said today. Affected cans have 2012 expiration dates of Oct. 4, Oct. 21, Oct. 22. and Oct. 24, it said.

Levels of cesium found in the 850-gram cans of baby milk powder are within safe limits and pose no health risk, the Tokyo-based company said in a statement today. The product may have been contaminated by cesium in the air, it said. The product was made in Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo , it said.

Prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can cause leukemia and other cancers, according to the London- based World Nuclear Association. Japanese consumers have spurned certain food products, including beef, after evidence that fallout from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s nuclear plant, crippled in the March 11 earthquake, entered the food chain.

Meiji fell as much as 13 percent in Tokyo trading, ending trading down 9.7 percent at a 30-month low of 3,020 yen. Rivals Morinaga Milk Industry Co. plunged 3.5 percent to a three-year low of 275 yen and Megmilk Snow Brand Co. declined 3.6 percent.

Cesium Traces

Traces of cesium-137 and cesium-134 were first detected in the Meiji milk product on Dec. 3 and were found again on Dec. 4, the company said today.

In a nuclear accident, radioactive isotopes including iodine-131 and cesium-137, which are normally contained inside the fuel rods, may be released into the atmosphere as gases or particulates if the rods are damaged. These can be inhaled or ingested through contaminated food or water. Children are especially susceptible to radiation poisoning from iodine, which can accumulate in the thyroid and cause cancer, according to the World Health Organization.

Cesium-137 that enters the body is distributed throughout the soft tissues, especially in muscle. Cesium-137 is eliminated faster from the body than other radionuclides, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kanoko Matsuyama in Tokyo at kmatsuyama2@bloomberg.net .

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Gale at j.gale@bloomberg.net

Shoppers are becoming aware as the apparition of milk with certified unique origin from places out of the no man’s land suggest. For instance, milk ″from Hyogo prefecture only″ is now available in some supermarkets  (see picture below with red box added to mark this mention in Japanese). Previously, tainted Hokkaido milk was difficult to avoid – although the northern island east coast is regularly visited by plumes from Fukushima. Besides, milk origin is ambiguously labelled ″packaged in″ any given factories without any details about the actual origin of the milk itself, hence discreetly giving decision power over whether companies mixed healthy milk with radioactive waste. Of course, there isn’t any guarantee that milk marketed as originating from the monitored land does not come from cows just imported from the no man’s land. Premium Kobe beef, for instance, only needs to be raised one year in that crowded region to be legally labelled and sold and such – cows are generally raised in greener and cheaper places such as Miyazaki (Kyushu)or Ishigaki (Okinawa) and then sent to Kobe. Although moving is costly, the cost can be passed on more easily on Kobe beef eaters than on Hyogo milk drinkers, hence providing a relative security for the latter ones. However the price of safe milk will rise with along with its increasing scarcity and it may reach a level where moving “hot” cows for their milk make economic sense on the very short-term. Food industrials should take notice with the example of milk packers that it damages their image, equity and bottom line very rapidly though. (more…)

This post is an update of Geiger Counter Case Study: Inspector Alert published on SurvivalJapan in which some questions remained open, mainly about the relatively high values (although still in the safe range) which I measured with the system kindly lent to me by Safecast and from whom I received some further advice.

The Safecast bGeigie system is designed to measure mainly gamma rays (high energy protons, akin to X-rays) and hence is used at least one meter above ground in their radiation maps. Since I live in the monitored land, several hundred miles away from Fukushima, gamma radiation is low and not really a concern. Therefore I had measured instead beta radiation (high energy electrons or positrons which are emitted back from the ground after radioactive fall-out) at about one foot above ground. For convenience, I monitored the level of radiation with the Safecast display which communicates by radio with the Inspector Alert safely cast in its lunchbox style (in Japanese “bento”) box, along with the GPS and SD memory card to geo-locate and store results. The Safecast team advised against this methodology for beta radiation pick-up and advised me to use the Inspector Alert alone for that matter – which I did.

I read the user manual to set the Inspector Alert display in uSv/h as opposed to CPM (count per minute) as I am more familiar with this unit and it is more relevant for body effects. The user manual explains that the factor used by the device to convert CPM into uSv/h is based on Cesium-137, the radionuclide used for its calibration, so the uSv/hr display is less accurate for other nuclides (such as Cesium-134, Strontium-90, Iodine-131 and of course Uranium and Plutonium…). This is why Safecast uses the CPM raw data instead.

The first measure that I made was inside my home and the display changed widely even in a single place. A Geiger counter is not like a weighing scale: it does not give a result at once nor does it give a stable result. Therefore when a value is broadcast either by citizens or a governmental organization, it should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, I could measure 0.120 uSv/h and any value between 0.090 and 0.150 uSv/h, that is about 25% more or less than the central value. Sometimes, some wilder values would come up: how do we interpret these?

Radiation is a random phenomenon which occurs naturally, so when a particle hits the Geiger counter sensor plate, it is registered and changes the overall measure value. The Inspector Alert averages measures over 30 seconds in order to get a more statistically relevant measure. Even then, the result is only displayed every 3 seconds so if one is moving, there is a delay between the measure and the display. Then there is the 15% accuracy which is probably an average: it means that some wild values (standard deviation) can occur from time to time. Other factors which can affect the results are solar flares (there was just a sunstorm by the way) and, probably, thermal drift if the device electronics is not properly compensated when temperature changes (any kind of electronics sensor is subject to this phenomenon). The bottom line is that measures could be twice as high depending on temperature, solar activity, randomness of natural radioactivity, types of radionuclides (including artificial ones from nuclear plants) and radiation (here it is a synthetic result of alpha, beta, gamma and X-rays), accuracy, resolution, etc.

Indeed, I could still measure inside and outside values from 0.055 to 0.225 uSv/h and even up to 0.355 uSv/h when spot on granite blocks which are naturally radioactive. These new measures were consistent with the range I had already measured with the full Safecast system. I could also check that the outer casing of Safecast suitcase and bento box did not emit stronger radiation than the room so the Geiger counter is likely not contaminated (and there should not be any calibration issue either according to the user manual).

I still could not double-check with another type of Geiger counter yet but these new results convinced me that they are normal. The maximum international value (except in post-Fukushima Japan) accepted is 1 mSv/year, which equates to 0.114 uSv/h. Given a 15% accuracy, it means that the Inspector Alert should read between 0.097 and 0.131 uSv/h which is indeed what it does most of the time (so we can dismiss occasional lower and higher results as products of standard deviation).

A final word of advice which I received from Safecast and which is also documented in the user manual is to use the timed count function of the Inspector Alert over at least 10 minutes to further smooth out results. There should be about 15% difference maximum between two such timed counts.

I hope that this update helps you to get a better idea about the capabilities and limitations of Geiger counters in general and specifically of the Inspector Alert – and of the analytical mindset and of the basic radiation knowledge necessary to properly use them. In any case, purchasing a Geiger counter to try and measure radioactivity in food does not make any sense (unless the food is irradiated to such a level that just staring at it is dangerous) and that monitoring the food trace is a safer and more reliable procedure. Thankfully, this is getting easier.

Tourists are well advised to avoid altogether Tokyo and the whole north-east of Japan, although visiting Osaka – Kyoto – Nara area, i.e. Kansai, and south-east remain safe as of today, provided extreme caution is paid to food origin. This can prove tricky as tourists usually eat out and Japanese cuisine, one of the best in the world, takes a large place in the tourist experience. However, the authorities’ mismanagement of the Fukushima crisis brought down a culinary disaster with half of the country’s fresh produce turned into nuclear waste distributed nationwide, and TEPCO managed to pollute the Pacific Ocean to such an extent that anything from it, including of course sushi, should be out of anyone’s diet whose life expectancy is higher than the next five years. I highly recommend renting a place with a kitchen and making your own food with utmost care to labelling. Most of all, leave your children at home. If visiting Japan still makes sense to you and you are taking all necessary precautions, keep in mind that your return flight will serve food from Japan with “unknown” origin on board, even if you are flying with a foreign airline. I strongly advise that you take your own food on-board whenever possible and complain to your airline about putting their flying staff and passengers at risk. If you think this is an exaggeration, picture yourself leaving Minsk just seven months after Chernobyl disaster contaminated the whole Belarus and being served local food on board.

On a recent trip to Europe flying with Lufthansa, I was amazed that not only Japanese but also the German crew was totally oblivious of this severe threat. After my explanation, a crew member was nice enough to serve me some remnants from their incoming flight, i.e. two frankfurters, four bananas and two oranges and some cheese and black bread which was all I ate during the 12 hour or so flight. Luckily for me, I was the only one to raise the issue this time – or I would have had nothing but orange or tomato juice to sustain me. Back to Japan, I was  concerned while eating spinach, a radio-friendly vegetable, especially as some onigiri rice balls labelled in Japanese were available during the flight and some sushi rolls and cold soba noodles were served with some wasabi / horse-radish paste as entrees – but a crew member reassured me that everything came from Germany notwithstanding. I took his word and try to sleep on it with the help of a Warsteiner beer, which amazed me by the simplicity of its content compared to the incredible brew which is served in Japan under the name “beer” (not even mentioning the various substitutes): malt, hops, yeast and water. Here is a picture of my frugal plate below. If you believe that their high potassium-40 content makes eating 4 bananas as dangerous as Fukushima rice and Ibaraki spinach, you are mistaken and should continue to learn about radioactivity. (more…)