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Study examines foods for radioactive substances


In co-operation with the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) will examine prepared food for radiation caused by radioactive elements such as uranium within the framework of the BfE-MEAL Study. Especially foods most frequently consumed by the German population will be considered. This includes foods from cereal products as well as vegetables and potatoes, dairy products, meat, and fish.

"Even if foods contain only small amounts of radiation emitting radioactive elements, such as uranium, a risk might emanate from the substances' chemical characteristics and radioactive radiation in case they are taken up over longer periods of time and in high concentrations. The actual risk will now be examined within the framework of the co-operation with the BfS," Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR, explains. "Therefore, the BfS and the BfR together will gain more data for the risk assessment", Hensel adds.

"Humans cannot perceive or grasp radioactivity with their sense organs," Wolfram König, President of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, says. "Citizens therefore depend on verified and reliable data provided by us. The joint study is intended to help better understand, compare and classify possible or negligible risks."

Within the framework of the BfR-MEAL Study, the BfR examines for the first time in Germany whether foods contain different substances such as nutrients, heavy metals or additives, in order to determine mean concentrations of these substances in the average human nutrition. The BfS gets selected food samples from foods that have already been prepared in the BfR-MEAL study kitchen as in typical households. These samples are then examined for various natural radionuclides such as uranium, radium-226, radium-228, or lead-210. The background to this is that natural radionuclides may occur in various concentrations and combinations in rocks and minerals everywhere in the environment. Therefore they may also occur in foods.

The foods selection of the BfS is based on the National Consumption Study II and mainly comprises cereal products, vegetables, potatoes, dairy products, meat, and fish. The BfS examines the food samples for their content of different radioactive elements. With the help of the measurement results the BfS will estimate the doses for the population.

The BfR-MEAL Study has been commissioned the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The Study is outlined to run for seven years and basically takes into account the entire range of German foods. The objective is, for the first time in Germany, to get information about the concentrations of different substances in the foods consumed.

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Source: Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz (BfS)