It seems people are continuing to interpret the confusing news coming out of Japan in ways that are, in my opinion, completely out of proportion to reality. I have heard one account of a whisky shop in Europe that said it would be canceling all contracts with importers and not taking any more Japanese whisky at all from now on.
To me, this seems wrong in many ways, some of which are really matters of individual moral choice. But I do think everybody has a responsibility to at least engage with the facts on this. It is just completely ridiculous to be talking about Japan as if it were a village. Talking about not buying products from the Osaka or Hokkaido because of the situation in Fukushima is like saying you won't buy products from Austria because of a problem in the Netherlands when the wind has been blowing in the other direction.
Below is a image taken from this official Japanese government website showing radiation levels in Japanese prefectures from the 18th to the 23rd of March (all the major foreign governments/nuclear agencies have been saying that the Japanese are being responsible in this situation and so I think these figures can be trusted). It follows on from the post I made previously covering the 15th to 17th and so presents a fairly continuous record. I have marked it with the names of whisky distilleries. The radiation levels are measured in microsieverts per hour. Microsieverts are a thousand times smaller than millisieverts.
Note that the Fukushima and the Miyagi prefecture measurements are not given in the graphs below. Miyagi is the home to Miyagikyo distillery. These are figures relating to Miyagi. Again, we do not seem to be talking about very worrying figures at the moment. Also please bear in mind that different locations in some of these prefectures are going to get different amounts of radiation. The background radiation will differ between prefectures.
To put these measurements in some perspective, one one-way trip from Tokyo to New York would give you and anything in your luggage about 100 microsieverts of radiation. Natural background radiation in the UK ranges from about 2000 to 7000 microsieverts a year (according to this Scottish Government news release). If that higher figure is right, and places like Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Aberdeen do have quite high background radiation levels, I think that means an hourly microsievert level of about 0.79 on these graphs. There are numerous sources of radioactivity in our normal diets. Consider the humble banana.
I make those comparisons not because I am trying to minimise the seriousness of the situation facing Japan following the earthquake and the accident at Fukushima. My son has just been born and I suspect I am more concerned about the radiation right now than the vast majority of people (hence my constant checking of stats like those below). I am no nuclear expert and I may well be being simplistic in my interpretation of radiation measurements (if anybody knows any better please post here/tell me, because I am convinced the best way to deal with this issue is to shine the light of reason on it). But I am trying my best to engage with the real stats and, as I say, I think it is everybody's responsibility to engage with the reality of the situation on the ground, rather than just recycling scare stories that have no foundation in anything other than the word "nuclear".
This is another good page, giving some different unofficial figures and some good context on the situation in Tokyo (which shows that quite substantial jump in radiation) in recent days.
Also, official reports on radiation levels in water: