The Miyagi Prefectural government said April 12 that radioactive cesium 172 times the central government limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram was detected in Yacon tea produced by a company in the prefecture.
The prefecture said the level of cesium found was 17,200 becquerels per kilogram.
According to the prefecture and the company, the maker already sold 1,100 sets of the product online and at stores, and it has already started a voluntary recall.
The prefecture said the maker, GOLDrand, planted Yacon outdoors in May last year in the town of Zao and dried the leaves and stems in a natural process before selling the dried powder for tea. The prefecture said the maker submitted a report to the prefectural government after the high concentration of cesium was found in a voluntary test at a private laboratory late last month.
“The company brought the product to an inspection agency because Tokyo Electric Power Co. (which operates the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant) said it will not provide compensation without test results for radiation," Yoji Sakai, company president, told The Asahi Shimbun. "I became worried and consulted the prefecture.”
The prefecture said it will recall and put to a test a similar product sold by another firm in the southern part of the prefecture.
“The tea will not cause health problems soon after being consumed," said Michiaki Kai, radiation protection professor at Oita University of Nursing and Health Sciences. "But the central and local governments need to give a more watchful eye to condensed food made from agriculture products harvested by around September last year.”
Yacon is a root vegetable originating in the high Andes of South America. It is known as a health vegetable, and its stems and leaves can be boiled into tea. Studies have shown that Yacon tea can reduce blood sugar levels. Therefore it has become popular among people with diabetes.
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