National project improves radiation emergency response capabilities in food control chain
A project for enhancing food radioactivity control in municipalities was completed in 2010, as a joint effort between the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira), Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) and other authorities involved in the food control chain. The project strengthened laboratories’ and controlling authorities’ competences and preparedness for radiation emergencies. It also provided comprehensive research results on natural products’ radiation levels in various regions in Finland.
The project’s primary purpose was to improve the domestic food control system’s capability of responding to possible radiation emergencies. Participants included six regional state administrative authorities (86 %), 49 municipal food control units (40 %) and 27 laboratories (77 %). Participating municipalities created the required contacts to laboratories that provide analysis services on a local basis. This also enhanced the competences of laboratory personnel and supported method management.
Municipal controlling authorities collected a total of 926 samples of mushrooms, berries, game and fish, in order to analyse their radioactive cesium-137 contents. The European Commission has recommended a limit value of 600 Bq/kg (Bq=Becquerel) for commercial products. As expected from earlier research, the recommended limit value was exceeded by several mushroom samples (16 %), particularly
Lactarius spp and
Russula spp picked from medium or high fallout areas. In practice, however,
Lactarius spp and part of
Russula spp mushrooms are normally pre-handled by boiling. This dissolves much of the radioactive cesium into water, reducing concentrations in the mushrooms actually consumed. The average concentration for all mushroom samples was 426 Bq/kg. Variation, however, was high since the concentrations ranged by mushroom species and sampling area, between the detection limit and 3,690 Bq/kg.
Game and berry samples remain below the limit value
All but one of the game, berry and fish samples remained below the 600 Bq/kg limit value recommended by the Commission. The average concentrations of berry, game and fish samples were 74 Bq/kg, 93 Bq/kg and 188 Bq/kg, respectively.
Based on the project’s findings, there is no reason to limit the consumption of domestic natural products. However, in high fallout areas, it is advisable to pre-handle mushrooms by boiling or soaking them in a large amount of water, as instructed by Evira and STUK.