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Japan recalls Shizuoka tea over radiation fears
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) June 10, 2011

Japan has detected radiation above the legal limit in tea grown in Shizuoka, the heart of the nation's green tea industry, officials said Friday, blaming the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant.

A tea dealer has started a recall of the dried tea after measuring about 679 becquerels of caesium per kilogramme in leaves at a tea factory in the city of Shizuoka, prefectural officials said. The legal limit is 500 Bq/kg.

Earlier this month Japan banned the shipment of green tea leaves from all or part of four other prefectures around Tokyo -- Chiba, Ibaraki, Kanagawa and Tochigi -- after radioactive caesium above legal levels was found in samples.

Shizuoka prefecture will carry out sampling tests at some 100 other tea factories in the area next week, although the caesium was at a level unlikely to affect human health, the prefecture said.

It was the first detection of radiation above the legal limit in tea grown in Shizuoka prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, where some 35,000 tonnes of dried tea is produced annually.

"We believe the source of the radiation was the Fukushima nuclear power plant," a prefectural official said.

Exports of green tea have virtually stopped due to lack of orders, the Asahi Shimbun reported.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant, located some 220 kilometres (135 miles) northeast of Tokyo and 360 kilometres from Shizuoka, was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

It has since leaked radiation into the air, ground and ocean, and engineers say it will take at least another half a year to stabilise it.

The central government has imposed a ban on a range of vegetables and dairy produce from parts of Fukushima prefecture and several neighbouring regions and banned fishing in the vicinity of the plant.

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