UK food radioactivity exposure is safe - report

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

The level of radioactivity to which UK people are exposed to from food during 2009 remained below the European Union (EU) legal limit, according to a report published yesterday by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Results showed that radionuclide concentrations in food and the environment at many sites were low, and in some cases so low that they could not be detected with the methods used.

Radioactivity within food is well within safe levels and that the public’s exposure to authorised discharges and direct radiation around the 39 nuclear sites around the UK is within legal limits,” ​said the report by FSA and three environmental agencies.

The main purpose of the annual Radiological Monitoring of Food and the Environment (RIFE) report is to check on the levels of radioactivity in the food chain and the environment.

Reduction in radioactivity

The 2009 results also showed that discharges from the nuclear sector in the UK have also continued to decrease. The report said​that the UK is contributing to the progress towards the OSPAR objective of reducing discharges to the NE Atlantic.

Nuclear sites discharging gaseous and liquid radioactive wastes are the prime focus of the programme as they are responsible for the largest individual discharges of radioactive waste.

It was found that in 2009, radiation doses to adults and children living around nuclear sites remained well below the national and European limit, which is 1 millisievert per year.

Food and drinking water in people’s general diet and sources of public drinking water were analysed across the United Kingdom and results showed little evidence of environmental radioactive waste disposal reaching the general diet. Results for all man-made radionuclides were also low.

“Whilst there was some variability from region to region, in general it was no more than is usual for the programme, and there were no discernible trends in concentrations,” ​the report stated.

Regional monitoring

The environmental effects of the Chernobyl accident continued to be monitored in 2009. In the summer of 2009, post-Chernobyl flock monitoring surveys of sheep in selected farms in the UK were conducted to remove restrictions where controls are no longer necessary.

As a result of the 2008 and 2009 surveys, more farms in Wales have had their controls lifted, although there are still restrictions on moving, selling and slaughtering sheep in some upland areas.

Other regional monitoring assessments, such as radionuclides from Sellafield and monitoring of residues from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull, did not discover any significant radiological levels.

The FSA works together with the Environment Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to undertake radiological research programmes.

The full 2009 RIFE report can be read via the link below

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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