Food Standards Agency
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Radioactivity report published

The level of man-made radioactivity to which people are exposed, remained below the EU legal limit during 2010, says a report published yesterday.

Radioactivity in Food and the Environment (RIFE) 2010 combines the Agency’s monitoring results with those of the Environment Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.

It is the most comprehensive annual independent report of radioactivity in food covering the whole of the UK. The survey measures radioactivity from different parts of the food chain, including for people who live close to nuclear sites and eat locally produced food. The report also assesses how much radioactivity people would absorb from authorised radioactive discharges in the environment, such as in the air.

By combining these sources, the report found that the total dose to members of the public in the UK is significantly below the EU annual dose limit of 1 millisievert for all exposures to radiation.

The science behind the story

Radioactivity has been around since the Earth was created and it exists naturally in the atmosphere, soil, seas and rivers. It's also created by human activity during energy production and military operations. Inevitably, some of this gets into the food and drink we consume. This means that, for average doses, the vast majority of radioactivity found in food results from natural rather than man-made sources.

The main purpose of the Agency’s monitoring programme is to make sure that levels of radionuclides in food and drink, from discharges, do not lead to us receiving unacceptable exposure to radioactivity through our food. Authorised discharges are those that nuclear sites, or industrial manufacturers, are allowed to make under their operating licences.

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