Food Standards Agency
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Views needed on lifting of post-Chernobyl farm restrictions
The Food Standards Agency is launching a consultation to seek views about whether to remove all post-Chernobyl controls and associated regulation on sheep farms in the UK.
Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former USSR, controls remain on a relatively small number of UK sheep farms. The controls were put in place because some radioactive contamination was deposited on some upland areas of the UK.
Restrictions were originally placed on farms to prevent sheep with unacceptable levels of radioactivity, predominantly radiocaesium, from entering the food chain. Food safety concerns are now very low and, as a result, restrictions have been removed from the majority of the 9,800 UK holdings originally affected. Only 334 farms in North Wales and eight farms in Cumbria remain under some form of restriction. All controls were lifted in Northern Ireland in 2000 and in Scotland in 2010.
The Agency has recently carried out an extensive survey of radiocaesium levels in sheep on the restricted farms and used this to assess the potential exposure of consumers to radiation. The survey showed that the levels of radiocaesium rarely exceed the permitted limit, and even for more highly exposed consumers the risk is now very low.
The assessment, which has been independently peer reviewed, demonstrates that if the current control measures in England and Wales are removed, the risk to consumers would remain very low. The control measures are now no longer considered proportionate to the very low food safety risk and are no longer required to comply with European Food Safety Law.
The Agency's primary concern is ensuring food safety, and is responsible for preventing products with unacceptable levels of radioactivity from entering the food chain. Current restrictions and controls on the movement of sheep in the restricted areas of England and Wales remain in place during the consultation.
The Agency is launching the consultation, as it is keen to get the views of a range of stakeholders following the updated risk assessment about whether to remove these control measures.