The latest scientific monitoring of sheep in the area, which took place last summer while sheep were on the fell, shows that levels of radioactivity are continuing to decline slowly. The number of farms under restriction is now nine, covering around 11,500 sheep. This compares with 1,670 farms which were placed under restriction when the measures were first introduced in 1986. Radioactivity levels must be consistently below 1,000 Becquerels per kilogram - the action level also set in 1986.
The latest survey - announced in June last year - involved ten farms, mainly around Ulpha, Loweswater, and Whicham, on the edges of the Lake District National Park. Whole flocks were monitored, using a specially-designed portable radiation monitor which measures the radioactivity in the thigh of the sheep. This contains the animal's largest muscle.
Consents for the movement and slaughter of sheep can be issued if monitoring of all sheep at the time of peak radioactivity shows that no animals are above the action level. Following the latest removal of controls, 40 farms with around 40,000 sheep will be exempt from the provisions of the current Food Protection Order.
Post-Chernobyl controls were first introduced on 20th June 1986 (MAFF Press Notice 156/1986). The present Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) (Radioactivity in Sheep) (England) (Partial Revocation) Order 1996, (S.I. No. 62) came into force on 17th January 1996, and redefined the size of the restricted area. The open nature of the land, and the presence of common grazing land to which all farmers have access, do not allow for the clear identification of boundaries through the geographical divisions which have to be described in a Partial Revocation Order. It is therefore necessary to retain the boundary of the current restricted areas. The lifting of post-Chernobyl sheep controls in parts of Cumbria were announced in MAFF News Releases 6/91 (January 1991); 449/91 (11th December 1991); 10/93 (13th January 1993); 9/94 (17th January 1994); 18/95 (18th January 1995); 15/96 (17th January 1996); 21/97 (22nd January 1997) and 16/98 (21st January 1998).