Food control and agricultural countermeasures

Agricultural countermeasures to nuclear and radiological emergencies are actions to avoid and reduce radioactive contamination in agriculture. Food control involves regulating food production and protecting the food supply and ultimately consumers. At the request of governments, the IAEA provides or brokers support through relevant international organizations, including the FAO.

In the nuclear emergency context, food control includes the prevention, mitigation or remediation of unacceptable levels of radioactivity in agriculture. Agricultural countermeasures, meant to counteract the presence of radionuclides in farmed areas, comprise a number of management options that are critical for many remediation strategies.

Together with the FAO, the IAEA helps Member States optimise and strengthen their capacities in the areas of food control and agricultural countermeasures management, to be able to respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies, strengthen radiation safety, and to support crop production and the preservation of natural resources.

Reducing radiation dose in the food chain

Agricultural countermeasures are measures and activities carried out to prevent or reduce radiation exposure from radionuclide contamination. Although their main objective is to reduce radiation doses to humans, providing reassurance to consumers and people living in affected areas is also an important objective, as this helps maintain public confidence.

A remediation strategy is a time dependent sequence of actions undertaken in an area, region or country. Agricultural countermeasures may form part of an overall strategy directed at the source of the contamination, for instance residual radioactivity in the environment, or the ways in which the radioactivity transfers to people (exposure pathways), such as from soil into the diet.

Many agricultural countermeasures focus on the transfer of radionuclides from soils to crops, minimizing the impact on animals and animal products, or taking actions at the food production, processing and cooking stage. These interventions are largely, but not exclusively, aimed at avoiding the production of contaminated commodities or reducing radionuclide levels in the food supply chain. Ultimately, they have the goal to decrease radiation dose to humans by limiting exposure to radioactivity in their food.