No health threat from radiation in UK food chain

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

The amount of radiation absorbed by the UK population through the food chain remains low and poses no health concerns, said the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

These are the conclusions of the Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (RIFE) report for 2008 – an annual survey that measures radioactivity from different parts of the food chain – including for people who live close to nuclear power stations and eat locally produced food. The report also looked at how much radioactivity people absorb from authorised radioactive discharges in the environment, such as from the air.

The research found that consumers' exposure to artificially produced radioactivity via the food chain - for aquatic, terrestrial and total dose pathways - remained below the EU annual dose limit to members of the public of 1 millisievert for all artificial sources of radiation.

Seaweed in Scotland

A Scottish study also evaluated exposure to radiation from foods produced using seaweed in the north and west of the country. Seaweed is used in animal feed and as a soil conditioner for growing food crops and has previously been found to contain levels of a specific radionuclide. The research set out to establish the population’s exposure to this radionuclide.

It concluded that the levels of radionuclide posed no health hazard.

“Based on the amount of radionuclides in foods and the amounts of these foods that are typically eaten, the results indicate that radiation exposure from consuming these foods was lower than the amount associated with consuming naturally occurring radionuclides in a typical UK diet,”​ said a FSA statement.

It added that the highest detected doses were one thousand times lower than the relevant dose limit of one millisievert. The average annual natural and artificial radiation dose to the UK public is 2.7 millisievert.


The RIFE report is compiled from the FSA’s own monitoring regime as well as those from the Environment Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. The body described it as is “the most comprehensive annual independent report of radioactivity in food, and covers the whole of the UK”.

The survey has information on radiological dose assessment methods, recently published surveys and research, current legislation and updates on UK, European Union (EU) and international commitments pertinent to the radiological protection area.

It said that radioactivity in the environment comes from numerous sources, including natural radiation, residues from the Chernobyl accident and atmospheric testing, plus radioactive discharges and emissions from nuclear and authorised non-nuclear sites.

The full report can be accessed via the following link

Related topics: Europe, Safety, Regulation

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