Chinese Shoppers Hoard Salt on Concern Japan Radiation to Spread

Chinese shoppers cleared shelves of salt, viewed as a defense against radiation exposure, as the government sought to allay concern that fallout from a stricken Japanese nuclear facility might reach its shores.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection released a chart on its Web site showing radiation levels in 41 cities, from Dalian in the northeast to Tibet in the west are within normal ranges. People shouldn’t take potassium iodide tablets used to combat radiation unless the government recommends it, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on its site.

Yunnan Salt & Chemical Industry Co. shares surged by the 10 percent daily limit as consumers stocked up on the mineral. China’s National Salt Industry Corp. asked its branches to help crack down on hoarding. People have been buying more than 10 bags of salt and exhausting supplies, said an assistant at a Lianhua Supermarket in Shanghai’s Hongkou district who declined to give her name.

"I just wanted to buy it for cooking, but I went to six supermarkets and there’s no salt any more," said Zou Hemei, a Shanghai housewife, as half a dozen customers queued in the supermarket for the mineral. "I ended up buying soy sauce as a substitute."

Residents should avoid panic buying of salt, the Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce said in a phone text message today. The city has sufficient edible salt stockpiled, it said.

Stricken Plant

China is bidding to ease public health concerns as the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant on Japan’s eastern seaboard leaks radiation. Helicopters are dumping water on a a reactor in an effort to cool exposed fuel rods.

After a nuclear accident "the first thing to do is to avoid panic," the disease control center said in a posting on its Web site dated March 16. "Listen to the radio or television, and act according to the government’s instructions."

Table salt does not contain enough of the type of iodine needed to block radioactive iodine from damaging a person’s thyroid gland and should not be taken as a substitute for potassium iodide pills, according to, a U.S.- based health-information Web site.

Yunnan Salt jumped 1.37 yuan to 15.10 as of the midday trading break in Shenzhen, China.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered condolences and sympathy for victims of the March 11 earthquake in Japan and China dispatched a search-and-rescue team to its Asian neighbor to aid in the recovery effort. China’s embassy in Tokyo is organizing an evacuation of citizens from northern prefectures affected by the quake, tsunamis and radiation threat. There are 2,900 Chinese citizens in Iwate, one of the four hardest hit, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency said.

“This is not a strategic game to play, this is more a humanitarian or human aspect of our bilateral relationship,” said Kunihiko Miyake, a former Beijing-based Japanese diplomat who now is research director of the Canon Institute for Global Studies in Tokyo.

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