EU Science Hub

Monitoring radionuclides in food in the European Union

Nov 13 2015

JRC scientists have compiled and published an overview of the legislation and practical modalities for the implementation of radionuclide monitoring in foodstuff in the European Union. The overview also provides an outline of the monitoring programmes instituted by the Member States and stresses the importance of the quality of data.

Since the signing of the Euratom Treaty in 1957, the EU Member States have the legal obligation to monitor radioactivity in the environment. Article 35 of the Treaty precisely requires  that the Member States  establish the necessary facilities to carry out continuous radioactivity monitoring and to provide documentation, which verifies the operation and efficiency of the services involved.
Radionuclide monitoring in foodstuff gained momentum after the Chernobyl accident in 1986. At the time of the nuclear accident, neither standards nor authorities had been established to address radioactive contamination in foodstuff. Consequently, the Chernobyl  accident was the take off  point for the development of an integrated food safety-related radiological protection system.
It can be concluded that though numerous secondary legislations abound across the EU, there exists  no harmonised sampling programmes nor commonly used integrated measurement methods with well-defined measurands and calculation methodologies. Moreover, the definition of a sample (matrix) is not precisely given.
Since 2003, the JRC-Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) is tasked with organising EC inter-laboratory comparison to identify underperforming laboratories and to provide advice on how to improve or modify their measurement methods. In addition, the JRC-IRMM is considering the possibility of providing certified food reference materials, which will help improve the comparativeness of the measured results.

Read more in:  B. Máté, et al.: "Radionuclide monitoring in foodstuff: overview of the current implementation in the EU countries", J Radioanal Nucl Chem 303 (2015) 2547-2552, doi: 10.1007/s10967-014-3773-y