JAPAN - Many local governments are calling on producers and harvesters of edible wild plants to refrain from shipping their products after a number of them were found to contain levels of radioactive cesium that exceed state limits.
Some of these plants are now at the height of their picking season, but citizens are also being urged not to gather the plants in certain areas affected by cesium discharged into the environment by the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.
In Fukushima Prefecture, some local governments have been told by the central government to refrain from shipping five types of edible wild plants whose radiation readings exceeded the state's safety limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram.
The five include royal fern (zenmai in Japanese), ostrich fern (kusasotetsu), Angelica tree sprouts (taranome), butterbur sprouts (fukinoto), and young fronds of koshiabura, a deciduous tree belonging to the ginseng family.
Young shoots and immature fronds of these plants are cooked as vegetables and considered a delicacy.
The prefectural government also told the city of Date to refrain from shipping bracken (warabi in Japanese), as the plants harvested there were found to contain 110 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.
According to the prefectural government, many similar edible wild plants with radioactive cesium content in excess of the new safety limits adopted April 1 have been found, prompting producers and harvesters to suspend their shipments.
Most of these plants were shipped through the end of March, as their radioactive cesium content was less than the previous provisional safety limits of 500 becquerels per kilogram.
In the town of Iino in Fukushima city, where wildly grown taranome shipments have been suspended, local direct sales depots are refraining from selling most edible wild plants for the time being.
In a typical year, local farmers bring edible wild plants to these local stores, the sale of which accounts for nearly half the stores' sales during the Golden Week holiday season.