Food protection measures

How can foodstuffs become contaminated with radioactive material?

In the event of a nuclear accident during which radioactive substances are released into the environment, the authorities will inform the population of any preventative bans on food consumption via the website, their Twitter account and the national media.


One of the main considerations in the event of a nuclear accident is protecting the food chain and feed for livestock. When radioactive substances are deposited on the ground, plants or water they risk contaminating the food chain.


The surface of fruit and vegetables and feed for animals can be contaminated by the deposition of radioactive material contained in the air or rainwater. In such circumstances, the leafy part of plants can effectively intercept airborne radioactive contaminants which make them susceptible to becoming contaminated.


If dairy cows graze on grass contaminated by the first fallout, radionuclides will quickly end up in their milk. In general, fresh food like milk, leafy vegetables and fruit can be contaminated by a nuclear accident.


Soil can also be contaminated as radionuclides with long life spans like caesium 137 and strontium 90 can accumulate in the ground which then becomes a source of secondary environmental contamination.


The various food restrictions will, if applicable, be communicated to the population via the media and the website


Is the food chain monitored in the event of a nuclear accident?

One of the main considerations in a nuclear accident situation is protecting the food chain and feed for livestock.

Depending on the scale of the accident and the potential resulting levels of contamination, the authorities may be required to impose restrictions on the consumption of certain products in some regions for a variable length of time. In this case, the sale of products that are contaminated above the threshold levels set by the authorities is banned.

The authorities will distribute recommendations on how to prepare some products and how often they should be consumed to limit the risk that people will become contaminated as much as possible.


Can tap water be drunk?

In principle tap water may be drunk, unless the authorities recommend otherwise.

Analysis will be carried out to verify the absence of contamination in mains water. Depending on the results of this testing, the authorities will decide which actions should be taken regarding the consumption of this water and will inform the population via the radio and television.

Can milk be drunk?

In general, fresh food such as milk may be contaminated during a nuclear accident. In the zones affected by radioactive fallout, human consumption of cow's milk will be banned.

A plan for monitoring the food chain will be implemented.

Can fruit and vegetables from your own vegetable garden/greenhouse be eaten?

In general, fresh food like leafy vegetables and fruit can be contaminated by a nuclear accident. In zones affected by radioactive fallout, a ban will be put in place on consuming food from a vegetable garden for human consumption.

A plan for monitoring the food chain will be implemented.

The principle advice is as follows:

  • cover vegetable gardens with a plastic tarpaulin;
  • close any greenhouses.

After an accident, the authorities will determine the zone in which the level of radioactive contamination in food is likely to exceed the maximum permissible levels for foodstuffs.

Outside these zones, food may still be consumed.

Within the shelter of a building, can stored fruit and vegetables be eaten?

Provisions stored inside a home or other building before the accident may be eaten.

What should you do after eating contaminated food?

When contaminated products are eaten, some of the radioactivity present in the product is absorbed by the body and accumulates in organs and tissues. These radioactive elements are then gradually eliminated from the body naturally. The speed at which this happens depends on where they have accumulated, their nature, your diet and whether more contaminated products are consumed.

Consuming contaminated food on one occasion should not be overly dangerous for health in principle. It is important to avoid consuming contaminated food over a period of weeks, as some radionuclides could become concentrated in the body.


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