(NaturalNews) The Japanese government has banned exports of green tea from four agricultural regions of Japan after leaves there tested positive for high levels of radioactive cesium. According to reports from the UK's Telegraph, green tea leaves from parts of Tochigi, Chiba, and Kanagawa, as well as from the entire region of Ibaraki, have exceeded legal limits following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, prompting the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to recall already-shipped stocks of tainted tea, and cease all future shipments.
The decision was made after authorities discovered that tea leaves from the city of Minamiashigara, which is located in the Kanagawa prefecture, tested at 570 becquerels (Bq) of cesium per kilogram (kg). This level, of course, exceeds the maximum legal limit of 500 Bq/kg for food items, and further investigation revealed that tea from several other prefectures also exceeded legal limits.
Green tea from Shizuoka, on the other hand, which represents Japan's largest growing region, was recently declared to be safe, as tests allegedly indicated cesium levels far below the legal limit. Still, experts say the restrictions in the other regions will likely create green tea shortages and a resultant spike in green tea prices, and possibly even export restrictions in Shizuoka as well.
"The new regulation may spur shipment restrictions from Shizuoka prefecture, slashing supplies and boosting prices of green tea," said Yasuo Sasaki, senior press counselor at Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. "Higher prices could spur consumers to shift from green tea to cheaper alternatives such as barley tea or oolong tea."
Officials say they still need to test dried tea leaves, which could contain levels of cesium up to five times higher than levels found on fresh leaves, which were the only types of leaves tested. Toshiyuki Aoki from Shizuoka's office of tea and agricultural production says such tests need to be conducted in order to determine whether or not export restrictions on his region are necessary.