TT-622 -- Where to Find Safe Food, e-biz news from Japan

* * * * * * * * * T E R R I E 'S T A K E * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd.
(http://www.terrie.com)

General Edition Sunday, July 17, 2011, Issue No. 622

+++ INDEX

- What's New -- Where to find safe food
- News -- One STD you do not want to catch
- Candidate Roundup/Vacancies
- Upcoming Events
- Corrections/Feedback -- Tracking milk sources
- News Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

On July 4th we wrote a piece joining the dots on radiation
concentrations in places around Tokyo where there should
not be any. It seemed to us that radioactive nuclides, like
non-radioactive heavy metals, appear to be able to be
concentrated under certain circumstances and therefore even
though the atmosphere registers as clean, perhaps we should
still be worried about our food supply.

That article generated a lot of response, especially from
readers with children, wondering what they could do to
limit possible exposure to contamination. Normally we don't
stick to a subject like this -- we like to move our focus
around a bit. However, barely ten days after our Take, it
emerged in the Japanese press that in fact cattle from
Fukushima which tested clean on the outside were found to
have 2,300 becquerels per kilo (2,300 bq/kg) of Cesium-137,
about five times the legal limit, when slaughtered. What's
worse, over one ton of the meat found its way into the food
supply, being sold all over the country.

Since then a number of other disturbing "finds" have arisen
in the press, indicating that not only were there some very
ill-informed decisions made by authorities as to what to do
with animal products (meat, milk, fish) in the period
immediately after the explosions at the Fukushima plant,
but that there still seems to be some sleight-of-hand going
on for government food health statistics.

The latest thing to catch our attention, which we
appreciate receiving from the well-informed folks at
www.safecast.org, is the news that contaminated milk from
Fukushima has been mixed with product at factories located
as far as the northernmost parts of Tohoku. So if you thought
you were buying from a safe producing area, the milk
authorities have had different ideas.

[Continued below...]

----------------- Would You Write to Eat Out? -------------

Metropolis' www.metrodining.jp website is gaining followers
at a prodigious pace, and we need more expertly written
food reviews.

If you can write, and if you eat out a lot anyway, just
how many reviews of places you have already been to would
you be willing to write, in return for a meal out for two
as payment?

We're interested to know the answer to that question and
invite readers to contact us and share their opinions.
Better still, if you would like to be a guinea pig in a
new barter payment program we are considering for
Metrodining.jp, then let us know that too.

Contact us at terrie@metropolis.co.jp to kick things off.
------------------------------------------------------------

[...Article continues]

This milk mixing revelation, so far unsubstantiated, comes
from a Prof. Takeda in his blog,
(http://takedanet.com/2011/07/post_088c.html), but it
appears to be backed up by a Sankei newspaper article
revealing that the authorities stopped monitoring Cesium
levels at individual milk producers in April, and instead
started monitoring cooling stations where the output comes
from many farmers, including those from safe areas.
Naturally the numbers were evened out and those farms with
"hot" output were no longer obvious as they got diluted
with less-contaminated product. Thus it was that on April
26 the ban on the sale of milk from Fukushima was lifted.

If you want to see which brands have been engaging in this
dubious practice, go here (sorry, many of the links from
here on are in Japanese only:

http://www.teppeinomori.com/201105/20110521001.htm)

OK, so we have the authorities trying to keep the dairy
business in Fukushima going through what we think is a
quite unethical practice. We suppose that in a twisted
logic sort of way, their rationale of diluting dirty
product with clean makes sense, since it keeps radiation
numbers below the limits. But would you drink it if you
knew this?

Our take on what to buy, what to avoid:

1. Leaf and Root Vegetables
The advice we've had so far is to generally avoid any
vegetables from Fukushima and possibly northern parts of
Ibaraki. If you can't do this, and often vegetables are not
labeled as to their source anyway, then you'll be wanting
to eat veges that grow deeper in the ground (Cesium tends
to stick to the top 5cm surface layer) or better still, eat
hydroponically grown veges for a while. There is a
plentiful supply of hydroponic Romaine lettuce, sprouts,
rucola, sunny lettuce, and other veges.

2. Rice
More concerning in a couple of months time will be new
harvest rice. It seems that rice planting was given the go
ahead in Fukushima after what appears to have been faulty
soil testing procedures. The government cut-off for soil
samples is 5,000 bq/kg of Cesium-134/137, and the Fukushima
government was getting 4,000bq/kg in their samples.
However, they were taking samples 5-15cm deep, while Cesium
sticks to the surface. Apparently a rice farmer took a
sample from the top 5cm of his land rather than below that
depth and had it independently tested. He found it was
contaminated to the tune of 35,000 bq/kg!!! Documented
here.

http://ameblo.jp/noukanomuko/entry-10926646707.html.

Incompetence? Purposeful manipulation of the tests? Hard to
say, but our advice about rice is clear. We would stock
pile with last year's crop, before the new Fukushima
product makes its way into the food system. Rice keeps
forever in the fridge anyway, so we advise buying some
month's supply and let the media do the sleuthing of
whether or not the new season's product is safe or not.

3. Mushrooms
We would stay away from mushrooms that come from Fukushima
and any neighboring prefectures to the West and North --
since this is where the wind patterns blew some of the
Cesium-137 from the explosions. Mushrooms with gills, such
as shiitake, are apparently very efficient at absorbing
nuclides due to their not having roots and stems. Wild
mushrooms near Chernobyl are still showing up with
contamination 25 years after the event.

4. Fruits
The best thing about summer is peaches, and fall the apples
-- two kings of Japanese fruit growing industry. Our guess
is that only a small quantity of these fruits are grown in
Fukushima and surrounds, and considering the volume you'd
be eating they pose a low risk. However, berries of all
types grown outdoors in and around Fukushima-ken should
probably be avoided -- these are another source of
contamination from Chernobyl experience.

5. Proteins
Probably the biggest concern is about milk. As mentioned,
it has come out that the milk authorities have been mixing
Fukushima-sourced product with clean milk from other areas,
presumably so as to dilute it. We ONLY buy milk that
expressly says it comes from Hokkaido right there on the
packet. Our rationale is that it would constitute false
advertising if they were to mix it with product from
somewhere else.

Fukushima is a major producer of eggs and pork, which we
would avoid for the time being, unless they're labeled as
being from somewhere else, or are imported product. What to
do with beef is less clear, despite the scandal over mixing
contaminated product, because public awareness will
probably keep supplier shenanigans to a minimum from now on.
However, thanks to the fact that Japan imports so much of
its food anyway, as one consumer said on TV recently, "If
it's Aussie beef, I'll eat it." Yup, you have plenty of
alternatives. Try Costco if you want foreign food.

No one seems to know what to do about fish. Personally,
we'd stay away from fish that obviously comes from the
area, Sanma (Pacific Saury), etc. Instead, it's not that
hard to stick to imported salmon, colder water fish such
as Hokke (Mackerel) which comes from the Sea of Okhotsk,
shrimp, and other varieties that are unlikely to be
locally sourced.

6. Bread and Processed Soy Products
Most of Japan's cereals are imported, particularly flour
(wheat), so we think these products are safe. Soy on the
other hand may wind up being a "mixed bag" (like milk?).
Right now about 2/3 of Japan's soybeans come from abroad,
primarily the USA and South America, but of the remaining
1/3, 25% comes from Tohoku. We don't know how much comes
from Fukushima in the south, but our guess from agriculture
production figures, is that it's not much.

7. Local Organic and Traceable Sources
If you are particularly concerned about source of produce,
then consider shopping online. If you use Radish Boya
(http://www.radishbo-ya.co.jp), an organic food supplier
which is extremely popular and well priced, they state
where the food comes from. Lots of Ibaraki-ken sourced
product, though, so we're not sure how good this is. Other
prefectures where they appear to have contract farms
producing in large volume are in Chiba and Gunma -- both of
which had less exposure to the fall-out from the
explosions. Radish Boya also tests its food for radiation
and generally to date they have been reliable with food
safety awareness -- their brand would be destroyed
overnight if they weren't.

8. Kyushu sourcing
If you are really concerned, then you could consider
sourcing from Kyushu and other further locations. Here are
some links to such sites. Again all in Japanese.

http://www.green-grace.co.jp/
http://vegetaberus.com/?tid=1&mode=f7
http://www.k-vf.com/

Lastly, we wish to keep things in perspective. At the
levels Cesium is being detected in our food in and around
Tokyo (versus right next to the Fukushima plant), the
situation appears to still be safe for adults. As an
indication, the US government says that if 100,000 people
were continuously exposed to a layer of soil with an
initial average concentration of 1 pCi/g (by our
calculations, about 37bq/kg) of Cesium-137, then 6
individuals would be predicted to die of cancer that could
be related to the exposure. This compares to about 20,000
people who would die from other types of cancer (US
average). The Japanese limit for food is 300 bq/kg, and in
eating such food, you would be excreting most Cesium-137
nuclides within 30 days.

...The information janitors/

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+++ NEWS

- Rebuilding in Tohoku very slow
- One STD you do not want to catch
- Fall off in tourists is slowing
- Reuters poll forecasts economic recovery
- Youtube releasing foreign language subtitling feature

-> Rebuilding in Tohoku very slow

We speculated in a previous Terrie's Take that there would
be little in the Tohoku rebuilding efforts for foreign
building materials suppliers, and this has turned out to be
the case for Japanese suppliers as well. Four months after
the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Q1 contract value
of public works projects actually dropped 5% over the same
period in the previous year. Furthermore, there is
apparently a glut of building materials that were
stockpiled in anticipation of a building boom. Government
plans for reconstruction have been delayed by the massive
clean-up first required, and also the lack of local
coordination available to get projects started. ***Ed:
Understandable, in that many of the government personnel
needed may not be alive any longer, but one has to wonder
why the Central government can't get a proper plan in place
quicker than this...?** (Source: TT commentary from
e.nikkei.com, Jul 12, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20110712D12HH478.htm

-> One STD you do not want to catch

Researchers in Japan and Sweden have apparently discovered
a new type of gonorrhea (VD) that is resistant to
front-line antibiotics such as Cipro. The new strain is
called H041 and it has shown up in Japan first. H041
appears to be untreatable, after tests with ceftriaxone --
the drug usually used for modern gonorrhea -- administered
at 8x the normal dosage failed to have any effect. So far
there have only been a few cases in Japan of H041, but
fears are that it may spread quickly. (Source: TT
commentary from npr.org, Jul 21, 2011)

http://n.pr/oKyXHu

-> Fall off in tourists is slowing

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has
announced that the June drop off of tourists to Japan took
a smaller fall of 36%, compared to the March-May period
when the numbers were down 50%-60% (depending on the
month). The JNTO says that the situation will continue to
be dire until the Fukushima power plant is made safe. The
organization also noted that despite numbers being well
down, a quick recovery is possible, as evidenced by worse
numbers (than this year) back in 2009 after the Lehman
Shock, then the subsequent resurgence in 2010. ***Ed:
Here's hoping that 2012 will be a strong year for
Japan-bound tourism.** (Source: TT commentary from
mainichi.jp, Jul 15, 2011)

http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110715p2g00m0dm015000c.html

-> Reuters poll forecasts economic recovery

A Reuters poll of 30 leading economists in Japan has found
that the experts are predicting an economic recovery for
the nation in the second half of this year. The outlook is
for growth of 0.2% in this fiscal year through to March
2012, and 2.7% for FY 2012 ending March 2013. The fact that
the nation is emerging from the disaster so quickly, with
May factory output volumes jumping significantly is
apparently taking finance people by surprise. Nonetheless,
the economists have commented that things could be even
better is political infighting was toned down. (Source: TT
commentary from reuters.com, Jul 14, 2011)

http://reut.rs/p1pCNe

-> Youtube releasing foreign language subtitling feature

YouTube has announced an automated foreign language service
for more than 50 languages, including Japanese. Apparently
the software analyzes speech in the videos and displays
captions in that language below. Once the captions are
created, users can search for video content based on the
words thus subtitled. ***Ed: Of course the holy grail will
be if they create automated translations of the captions,
so that foreigners can watch Japanese talk shows... ;-).**
(Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.co.jp, Jul 15, 2011)

http://e.nikkei.com/e/ac/tnks/Nni20110715D15JFN02.htm

NOTE: Broken links
Many online news sources remove their articles after just a
few days of posting them, thus breaking our links -- we
apologize for the inconvenience.

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***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ UPCOMING EVENTS/ANNOUNCEMENTS

--------------- Start a Company in Japan ------------------

Apologies:

The Entrepreneur's Handbook Seminar scheduled for July 16th
has been postponed until September 10th due to low numbers
registering. Those people interested in learning how to
start a company, can apply for the September event by
visiting the website here:

http://www.japaninc.com/entrepreneur_handbook_seminar.
-----------------------------------------------------------

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-----------------------------------------------------------

***------------------------****-------------------------***

+++ CORRECTIONS/FEEDBACK

In this section we run comments and corrections submitted
by readers. We encourage you to spot our mistakes and
amplify our points, by email, to editors@terrie.com.

*** More on tracking food sources...

=> Reader contribution:

I just wanted to add a comment about the safety of the food
here in Tokyo. I share your concern, particularly about
foods such as dairy products. Yoghurt is also an important
part of my diet, so I have taken to making my own. It does
take some extra effort to find milk from areas that are
distant from the obviously radiation-affected areas. And I
guess there is still an issue of how far away is far enough
and whether the factory uses milk only from the region
where the factory is located.

As an aside, I am not sure if this is well known (it was
new to me), but the location of the factory where the milk
was produced/processed is "coded" onto the imprint of the
expiry date at the top of the milk carton. You will see a
two (or three) character code, such as "KT" (one of the
characters may be a kana character) at the end of the
imprint. This is a code specified by the company indicating
where the product was processed. For example, Meiji Milk
with the KT code is processed in their Tohoku Factory in
Miyagi Prefecture. I have not seen any information on this
in English. Someone has put together a Wiki in Japanese for
these codes organized by various food products and by
manufacturer.

http://www45.atwiki.jp/seizousho/pages/47.html

Back to yoghurt, the culture for yoghurt is available in a
number of supermarkets, often in the same area that yoghurt
is found, but it may be in another section. The type I see
most often is for "Caspian Sea" yoghurt from Fujicco. The
process to make it is simple, just add the culture to milk
in a container that you sterilized with boiling water and
let it stand at room temperature for the recommended time.
Then refrigerate and consume within the recommended time.
With the heat we are getting these days, turning the milk
into yoghurt should take no time at all! ;-)

Just wanted to add one thing. In some cases, I have seen
the production plant location printed directly on the
product label area, above the company address. In such a
case there has been no code on the imprint at the top. I
guess this is when the product only comes out of that one
plant, so they can print up the cartons with the location
directly on the label.

***********************************************************
END

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+++ ABOUT US

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