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Japan restricts green tea shipments because of radiation contamination

Shipments of leaves are banned in four regions around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after testing indicated radiation levels above the legal limit

The Japanese government on Thursday banned shipments of green tea leaves in four regions around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant because of radiation contamination, the Telegraph reported.

The government has forbidden the shipment of both fresh and dried green tea -- normally touted for its health benefits -- from Ibaraki Prefecture, southwest of the plant; from six towns in Chiba Prefecture and six towns in Kanagawa Prefecture, near Tokyo; and two in Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is located, according to CNN.

Green tea plantations were first highlighted as suffering from potential radiation contamination last month based on the results of sample tests in Kanagawa prefecture. Kanagawa, southwest of Tokyo, said early in May that it had detected radiation above the legal limit in tea grown there and blamed it on the stricken nuclear power plant, according to AFP. The prefecture began a recall of the tea after measuring about 570 becquerels of caesium per kilogram in leaves grown in the city of Minamiashigara. The legal limit is 500 Bq/kg.

The government also banned the shipment of plums from three towns in Fukushima, CNN said.

The bans come nearly three months into the crisis at Fukushima, the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. One of three operating reactors at the plant melted down after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the other two suffered extensive damage.

Tea leaves are the most recent Japanese agricultural product to be affected by problems surrounding the still-damaged Fukushima plant, the Telegraph said. The central government previously imposed a ban on a range of vegetables and dairy products from parts of Fukushima prefecture and several neighboring regions, and banned fishing in the vicinity of the plant, according to AFP.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/japan/110603/japan-bans-radioactive-gree-tea-exports