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My wife later that evening told me over dinner how our ayi had bought a kilogram of salt. “It was so expensive,” she told me, “a single small bag can now cost 15 rmb.” Bags used to cost a couple yuan. She explained to me the near-hysteria with which Chinese consumers were buying up salt in fear of atomic radiation blowing in from Japan should a reactor explode at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The iodine in salt, so Chinese wisdom holds, will protect consumers from radiation poisoning. She told me, “I said to the ayi, ‘What are you going to do, eat handfuls of salt?” She said the ayi had no response.
The government has remained mum on the subject, perhaps theorizing that because there is no solution should there actually be contamination, that at least salt is cauterizing pedestrian anxieties. Salt producers must be laughing all the way to the bank.