The ban on wild mushroom shipments from 43 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities announced on Sept. 15, paired with widespread radiation fears, is discouraging pickers from their usual mushroom-hunting trips into the woods.
The ban came after wild mushrooms containing cesium beyond the legal limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram were found in the prefecture.
In the town of Tanagura in Fukushima, tawny milkcap mushrooms picked this month were found to contain 28,000 becquerels of cesium, or 56 times the legal limit. The town is famous for matsutake mushroom hunting between the end of September and late October each year.
Tanagura is about 70 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station, and it has atmospheric radiation of about 0.2 to 0.3 microsieverts per hour.
The Japanese Society of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition says wild mushrooms are more likely to absorb radioactive materials than other food products. Some studies indicate that mushrooms such as matsutake and tawny milkcap mushrooms, both of which grow out of the ground, tend to register higher levels of radiation than mushrooms which grow on dry vegetation, like maitake and nameko.
The impact of radiation fears is not limited to Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, however.
Unlike other farm products, wild mushrooms are picked by mushroom hunters who then bring them to retailers, direct sales stores, and local roadside markets.
The Forestry Agency is advising those planning to go mushrooming to check the websites of respective local governments for the results of radiation tests and gather other pertinent information.
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