Harmonizing guidelines for the assessment of radioactivity in food and drinking water

Harmonizing guidelines for the assessment of radioactivity in food and drinking water



As a result of this work, an IAEA safety report is expected, on the basis of which national authorities can set reference values ​​for radionuclides in raw materials in accordance with the IAEA’s International Basic Safety Standards. The safety report on radiological exposure to radionuclides in food in non-emergency situations is due to be published later this year.

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As a result of this work, an IAEA safety report is expected, on the basis of which national authorities can set reference values ​​for radionuclides in raw materials in accordance with the IAEA’s International Basic Safety Standards. The safety report on radiological exposure to radionuclides in food in non-emergency situations is due to be published later this year.

“In existing exposure situations, people are already exposed to radiation and national authorities need to decide whether measures are needed to reduce this exposure, either for specific persons or for the entire population. Relevant guidelines are essential for the assessment of radioactivity in food and drinking water and help harmonize the guidelines in the member states, ”said Haridasan Puthanveedu, radiation protection specialist at the IAEA.

In cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the IAEA has advised a steering group that has been working since 2017 to provide national authorities with science-based international guidance on how to manage radiation doses in food and drinking water. International experts provided further support through meetings to discuss updates and implementation of the new guidelines.

The steering group recommended that the dose be assessed using a combination of diet and food samples. Various diet sampling approaches are routinely used, including a sampling method in which a range of foods are collected at consumer points of sale in order to reproduce the consumption pattern and assess the total dose of radiation received by a person holding such a typical food basket consumed, would receive. For example, fishery products tend to have higher levels of some radionuclides than agricultural products, and the consumer behavior of people on a seafood-based diet needs to be taken into account.

“It is important that national authorities establish baselines and identify those foods that are the greatest contributors to the radiation dose to their populations,” said Tony Colgan, who led the work until he retired earlier this month as head of the IAEA’s Radiation Protection Unit.

The establishment of the new framework will also help in the event of radiological contamination of food and drinking water through an accident. “In the event of a nuclear or radiological accident anywhere in the world, technical expertise in measuring radionuclides in food will be the basis for public reassurance and in certain situations the basis for imposing restrictions,” said Colgan.

The establishment of reference values ​​and the development of a method for determining the dose to a person representative of the more highly exposed persons in the population have yet to be tackled. These and other topics will be the subject of a virtual meeting from September 6-10, 2021, jointly organized by the FAO, IAEA and WHO.

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