Food Law News - UK - 2000

FSA Press Release (2000/0042), 20 September 2000

Agency Report Finds Radioactivity in UK Food is Below EU Limit

UK consumers' exposure to radioactivity from eating food is well below the EU dose limit, according to the latest Government survey published today.

The report by the Food Standards Agency, in conjunction with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, is part of an ongoing surveillance programme which covers the whole of the UK but primarily monitors foods and seafoods produced near major nuclear sites.

Samples were analysed for a range of radioactive elements (radionuclides). Measurements were also made of radioactivity in the national food supply, and in foods produced around non-nuclear industrial sites, such as steel works, which discharge radioactivity. More than 8,000 samples were tested for a total of 45 different types of radioactive element.

The results showed that in the average diet, man-made radioactivity contributed less than 1% of the 1000 microsieverts EU limit for radioactivity in food. Radioactivity from natural sources, such as radon gas, contributed more than five times this amount.

The greatest exposures from man-made radioactivity were estimated to occur close to the Sellafield reprocessing plant in Cumbria. Here, people eating large quantities of locally caught seafoods could receive up to 19% of the same limit.

The background dose of radiation received from all natural sources averages 2,230 microsieverts a year, but could be as much as 6,000 microsieverts a year in parts of Cornwall due to high amounts of natural radon gas. There is no dose limit for naturally produced radioactivity mainly because exposure to these sources cannot be controlled. A microsievert is a measure of radioactive dose received by people.

The EU dose limit is the risk judged acceptable by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. It is applicable to man-made or artificially produced radioactivity.

The annual surveillance report is published in the 1999 Radioactivity in Food and the Environment report (RIFE). It is a joint publication with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the report therefore includes environmental measurements in Scotland.

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