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Radioactive contamination of foodstuffs

Commission to correct lax EU levels for Japanese imports, Greens urge revision of overall regulation


The European Commission yesterday announced it would be reducing the maximum permitted tolerance levels for radiation in foodstuffs imported to the EU from Japan, after the Green group raised concerns that the EU levels were less strict than those in Japan (1). The Greens urged the Commission to revise the regulation to ensure stricter levels are applied to all foodstuffs in the case of a nuclear accident. Commenting on the decision, Greens/EFA co-president Rebecca Harms said:

"The European Commission has thankfully responded to the concerns we have raised and agreed end the discrepancy between the tolerated levels of radioactive contamination in Japan and the EU. There can be no room for complacency however and the Commission must ensure that the applicable levels in Europe ensure EU citizens have the highest possible protection from radioactive contamination. Clearly, this means revising the general regulations on tolerance levels in foodstuffs, and not just those applying to Japanese imports."

Green MEP Michele Rivasi, who was shadow rapporteur in the EP on radioactive contamination of foodstuffs, added:

"The current maximum levels of radioactive contamination for foodstuffs in the EU are far too high – some even higher than those in place when the Chernobyl disaster occurred. Regrettably, just a few weeks ago, a majority of MEPs rejected Green amendments aimed at ensuring that the tolerance levels for radioactive contamination of foodstuffs are consistent with the best international standards (2).

"The applicable levels would imply that the public be exposed to radiation at levels higher than the maximum limits set out in existing EU legislation on safety standards for ionizing radiation (3). We therefore urge the Commission to come forward with a revised and single set of values based on the protection of the most vulnerable population, i.e. the children. Clearly, given the implications for public health, the EP should have co-decision rights over this legislation and the Commission should come forward with a proposal under the appropriate treaty base to this end."

(1) See initial communication from the Greens/EFA group with detailed values:

(2) See press release following the EP vote in February

(3) The levels being proposed for foodstuffs would effectively mean that members of the public consuming contaminated foodstuffs would be exposed to contamination at higher levels than those set out in directive 96/29/Euratom of 13 May 1996 laying down basic safety standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionizing radiation.

Radioaktive Belastung von Lebensmitteln

Barroso korrigiert nach öffentlichem Protest Kommissionskurs


Auf eine mündliche Frage der Fraktionsvorsitzenden der Grünen/EFA im Europäischen Parlament Rebecca Harms zu den europäischen Grenzwerten für aus Japan importierte Lebensmittel kündigte Kommissionspräsident Barroso gestern im Plenum des Europaparlaments an, die Grenzwerte umgehend an die deutlich niedrigeren japanischen Grenzwerte anzupassen (1). Dazu erklärt Rebecca Harms:

"Kommissionspräsident Barroso hat erst nach großem öffentlichem Protest den falschen Kurs der Kommission bei der Festlegung von Grenzwerten für radioaktive Belastung von Lebensmittelimporten aus Japan korrigiert. Er hat endlich erkannt, dass die Diskrepanz zwischen europäischen und japanischen Grenzwerten nicht akzeptabel ist (2). Nun muss sichergestellt werden, dass die Grenzwerte am bestmöglichen Schutz der europäischen Bevölkerung orientiert werden. Das gilt nicht nur für die Maßnahmen, die im Zusammenhang mit der Katastrophe von Fukushima getroffen werden. An einer Überarbeitung der Verordnung zu Höchstwerten in  Nahrungsmitteln und Futtermitteln im Falle eines nuklearen Unfalls führt kein Weg vorbei.

Angesichts der geringen Importmengen aus Japan treten wir für ein zeitlich begrenztes Importverbot ein. Ein Lebensmittelnotstand wäre dadurch in der EU nicht zu erwarten. Ausgleichsmaßnahmen für den Einnahmeverlust japanischer Lebensmittelproduzenten könnte auch auf anderem Wege geleistet werden."

Anmerkungen:

(1) Vorgesehener Zeitplan der Kommission: Verabschiedung der Maßnahme Montag 11. April, Veröffentlichung Dienstag 12. April

(2) Comparison maxim permitted levels of contamination of foodstuff EU - Japan

(values in Bq/kg or Bq/l)

 

 

 

General Food

Milk and dairy

Infant food

Water / Liquid foodstuff

 

EU

Japan

EU

Japan

EU

Japan

EU

Japan (b)

Iodine
I-131

200

200 (a)

500

300

150

100

500

300

Cesium
Cs 134 - 137

1250

500

1000

200

400

n.a

1000

200

Plutonium and transuranic elements
Am, Pt

80

10

20

1

1

1

20

1

Strontium
Sr-90

750

n.a

125

n.a

75

n.a

125

n.a

 

(1) for vegetables except root vegetables and tubers - does not include grains, meat and fish as the EU value

(2) for drinking water - not specified for other liquid foodstuff

Source EU Values: Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 297/2011 of 25 March 2011 imposing special conditions governing the import of feed and food originating in or consigned from Japan following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station. This regulation to values under Council Regulation (Euratom) No 3954/87 of 22 December 1987 laying down maximum permitted levels of radioactive contamination of foodstuffs and of feedingstuffs following a nuclear accident or any other case of radiological emergency.

Source Japanese Values: Notice No. 0317 Article 3 of the Department of Food Safety - 17 March 2011