Food To Avoid


This Illustrated List of food products show food items with radioactive level above the Japanese legal limits, as well as items that you want to watch out for in the year 2013. This was created by Yokohama Citizens’ Radioactivity Monitoring Station.

Japanese Government does not give strict regulations on the distribution of foods from Tohoku & Kanto regions. There have been contaminated food sold in markets, and some food products are contaminated even outside Tohoku. By state regulation, 17 prefectures are subjected to have their products monitored. But even under the ‘permissible limits’ of radiation proposed by the government, radioactive materials are cumulative in your body after long-term low-levels exposure. We have various information and monitoring data today thanks to  people’s radiation monitoring groups.

Some foods tend to accumulate more radiation than others. When you deal with following foods, be watchful of the origin of produce, or if you don’t know where they come from, simply avoid eating them. Now you can say the names aloud in Japanese too.

  • Seaweed (includes nori used in sushi) or KA-EE-SO
  • Bamboo shoots or TAH-KEH-NO-KO
  • Mushrooms or KINOKO
  • Wild mountain vegetables or SUN-SIGH
  • Small fish or KOZAKANA
  • Clams or KAI
  • Tea or OCHA
  • Herbs or HAH-BU
  • Berries (blueberries, cranberries etc) or BERII
  • Spinach or HO-REN-SO
  • Cabbage or KYA-BET-ZOO
  • Barley or MOO-GUI
  • Dairy products or NEW-SAY-HING


Reference: Yuko Ogura, Akira Suganuma “Shoku De Taisaku! Houshanou” (2012)



  1. J.D.

    My wife and I will be vacationing in Japan next year for a week, and we were wondering if it would be safe to eat most of our meals at McDonald’s. Is the food at McDonald’s processed locally or imported from somewhere else?

    • admin

      Hello J.D. – While I certainly don’t think it would be “safe” (radioactive or not) for you to eat food sold at McDonald’s, here’s what I found:
      According to McDonald’s Japan website, their beef is imported from Australia and New Zealand. Chicken from Thailand, and fish from Bering Sea of the Northern Pacific. I assume the food are all processed in the countries of origin, given the forms in which their food usually comes to their restaurants.
      As for the fish, the contamination status of the Northern Pacific is unknown, but I would suggest that you avoid it. I have found this study by a group of oceanographers. The study suggests different predictions of cesium pollution in the Pacific.
      I am not sure where other ingredients are from at McDonald’s but according to a food producer survey conducted by a magazine (Shukan Josei) in 2011, McDonald’s Japan’s ingredients are all imported except for lettuce and eggs.

      I will do some more research and get back here to follow up.
      Hope this helps prepare for your travel.

  2. J.D.

    Thanks, that helps a lot. Do you know if the tap water is safe to bath/ shower in? We plan to drink only bottled water, but we can’t really clean ourselves with it.

    • admin

      While I too used bottled water only when I stayed in Tokyo, I had to shower too. I would be careful not to have my eyes (and any openings like cuts on the skin) contact with tap water. I tried to use bottled water for rinsing mouth after brushing teeth. It was difficult and costly.

      There are a few other radioactive materials that are and can be present in the water, but I can only speak of cesium and as for other isotopes, I need to do more research.
      Radioactive cesium has been detected in wide areas of eastern Japan including Tokyo, and while the amount of cesium might have reduced now, we have to remember that the official monitoring method is lax; the minimum detectable amount is so high hence making any amount below the minimum would be dismissed as N/D (not detected).

      In addition, at sewage plants in Tokyo, high levels of cesium are still being detected today. the latest of the monitoring data showing as high as 1,800 Becquerels /kg. If there is this much cesium in sewage water there is cesium in the source water, too, I assume.

      To give you a reference for this figure, the max allowable level of cesium in tap water, in post-Fukushima Japan, was 200 Becquerels/kg, which was later revised to 10 Becquerels/kg.

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