Chaos of radioactivity limits

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Drawer regulation in the event of a nuclear super-disaster in the EU

After the nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl, many fungi and milk products in Germany were also radioactive. To date, the limit values ​​for mushrooms have been exceeded in many places. According to the consumer protection organization "Foodwatch", there are different limit values ​​in the European Union (EU), which are used depending on the country of origin of the food. If there is a disaster in one of the European member countries, correspondingly adjusted values ​​are already in the drawers of the responsible commissions. An absurdity, as Foodwatch warns. The consumer advocates therefore demand uniform values. For its part, the Federal Republic has also made a move towards Brussels.

Since April of this year, after the most severe reactor accident since Chernobyl, Japan has been subject to stricter limits for radioactive food. In the EU, however, times ago a "special way" was chosen. If a nuclear reactor catastrophe happens in one of the EU member countries, the Commission already has a so-called drawer regulation ready, according to information from "Foodwatch" in Brussels. These emergency regulations announce much higher values ​​than the limit values ​​after the disasters in Chernobyl or Fukushima. According to the experts of the consumer organization, this is a real “limit value chaos”. The EU works with three different sets of rules.

Long half-lives of up to 30 years The standard limit values ​​relate primarily to the exposure to cesium in food. Both radioactive variants, isotopes -134 and -137, have a high half-life and decay only very slowly. Cesium-134 has reached the half-life after two years and cesium-137 has reached the half-life after 30 years. This EU regulation has now also been criticized by the Federal Environment Ministry. The ministry spokesman Jürgen Maass told “Welt-Online”: “Germany launched an initiative in August 2011 to resolve the current confusing situation. In March, the official letter went to the EU Commission”. To date, however, nothing has happened.

However, the EU limit values ​​for the import of Japanese food imported from Japan are relatively strict. For example, baby food may not exceed a load of 50 becquerels per kilogram (Bq / kg). The same values ​​generally apply to milk and milk products. Other foods, such as the popular Nuri leaves for sushi, can reach a maximum load of 100 Bq / kg. However, the Munich Environmental Institute advises setting a maximum value for food of between 30 and 50 becquerels per kilogram of total cesium activity. For children, nursing mothers and pregnant women, a maximum of 10 to 20 becquerels per kilogram should apply.

The limit values ​​in Japan were already much stricter before March 2012 than the two current European values. When the Supergau occurred in Chernobyl, maximum values ​​for food were first introduced in 1986. These initially applied to the regions affected by the USSR. The same-named regulation for food from Ukraine and Belarus still applies today. The maximum limits regulation was only recently extended to 2020 because the values ​​are regularly exceeded. These upper limits, which were created at that time, are still used today.

EU drawer regulation for nuclear accidents But there is a third regulation limit regulation that remains in the drawer. In the case of radioactive contamination due to a nuclear accident in a reactor within the EU, other maximum limits suddenly apply to food and feed. These are many times higher than the limits that currently apply to imports from Japan.

Foodwatch demands uniform control limits But that shouldn't be, criticizes "Foodwatch" and demands a uniform regulation. "Even in the event of a disaster, it is important to bring products that are as unpolluted as possible to people in order to keep the radiation dose as low as possible," said Martin Rücker of the independent initiative. Because any contamination can lead to cancer. The values ​​from back then are very high in order to still be able to import the food and guarantee a supply for the population. "In today's globalized world, a supply of largely unpolluted products should be possible," Foodwatch criticized.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment confirmed the information from Foodwatch. However, the emergency ordinance is based on an emergency that prevails in euros. And that only food would be exported and imported within the EU. In addition, the period of validity is limited to a maximum of three months. If the initiative from Germany is successful, the currently 20-year-old limit regulations would be reviewed. The ministry did not want to confirm whether these would be interpreted more strictly. (sb)

Read on:
What do meltdown or super meltdown mean?
Health: late effects from radioactive radiation

Image: Thommy Weiss /

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