July 2011

Ask Beau - "Is anyone planning an article that will explain how to choose a 'safe' sake in the future?"

Posted by Beau Timken in 2011, Ask Beau, July, Newsletter
Beau Timken In the June Issue of the True Sake Newsletter I replied to the above question, and apparently I got some things wrong as per radiation. This is a subject that I do not know a lot about, and I certainly do not want to steer people in the wrong direction. The reader who called me out in regards to my mistakes agreed to set the record straight. So herewith is the a coupling of the initial email with some added information as per radiation in Japan and to what effect it will have on the sake industry as well as Japan itself. By the way Carl is a long time customer, and he felt comfortable enough to utter the line, "I read your latest newsletter and although your knowledge of sake is impressive, your knowledge of radiation is not," which I think is classic.

Dear Beau,

I read the June True Sake Newsletter and although your knowledge of sake is impressive, your knowledge of radiation is not. You had a few technical errors in your response to Cecil K. including one major misconception! I am an environmental health physicist with nearly 20 years investigating and cleaning up hazardous and radioactive waste sites, so I have a fair amount of knowledge on the topic of radiation and contamination. Thus, I would like to help your readers understand a little more about the concerns regarding radioactively contaminated sake. The technical details are way too extensive to get into in a letter so I will try to keep this brief.

First, contaminated water. Yes, there are large amounts of contaminated water being dumped into the ocean. There was also radioactive contamination in the form of particulate (like dust) released onto the ground near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. I think there is a very small chance that either will find their way into drinking water sources and into sake. If it does, it will likely be at such a low amount that it is not harmful to you.

Second, radiation detectors. Radiation detectors are very sensitive to low amounts of nuclear radiation. You can buy cheap ones on the internet for less than $50 and try to detect radiation in a bottle of sake or other food products. But I would not bother. It will not be sensitive enough; you need very expensive laboratory grade instruments for that.

Third, cell phones. Nuclear radiation is NOT emitted from cell phones. Nuclear radiation is a type of radiation we call ionizing. X-rays are another type of ionizing radiation. Both are, of course, destructive to living tissue. But both can be very beneficial to us also (like dental X-rays and nuclear radiation used to kill cancer). Cell phones emit radiation that is non- ionizing, thus not destructive to living tissue. Some people believe the radiation from cell phones causes other biological effects, but that is a different story.

Fourth, testing of food products. I cannot speak to the testing Japan and the United States is conducting on food products exported from Japan, but I suspect there is a fair amount of scrutiny, so I am not worried about drinking contaminated sake or food. In fact, I enjoyed a couple of namas last Friday night.

Carl P.

PS: Radiation is not an element!

Thank you, Carl.

Please send your sake specific questions to askbeau2 @ truesake.com. (This address is not for general questions and I only review the questions once per month. All other correspondence should use info @ truesake.com.)

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