Food Law News - UK - 2009

FSA News Item, 21 September 2009

CONTAMINATION - Post-Chernobyl monitoring reports 2008 published

The Agency has today published three monitoring reports on sheep at farms remaining under post-Chernobyl restrictions in England, Scotland and Wales.

None of the farms in the 2008 survey were considered to be suitable to have their restrictions lifted.

Back to top BackgroundIn 1986, an accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former USSR (now Ukraine) released large quantities of radioactivity into the atmosphere. Some of this was deposited on certain upland areas of the UK where sheep are farmed.

In order to protect the health of consumers, restrictions were placed on the movement and sale of sheep from areas of the UK where contamination levels in sheep meat were over 1,000 Becquerels (a measure of radioactivity) per kilogram (Bq/kg) – the safety limit set in 1986.

Live sheep are monitored using a hand-held radiation monitor pressed against them. This gives a count rate that relates to a radioactivity concentration in Bq/kg. To allow for variability in live monitoring results, a pass mark is used to ensure there is only a 1 in 40 chance of a sheep above the limit giving a monitor reading below the limit.

In 1986, almost 9,000 farms were under restriction in the UK. Since then, the levels of radioactivity in sheep meat have fallen and the number of farms still under restriction is now 369, of which over 95% are located in north Wales.

The Agency is continuing to undertake further surveys to ensure that other farms can be released from restrictions when the levels of radioactivity in sheep are within safety limits.

Copies of the reports can be downloaded from the FSA web site at:

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