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Food and drinking water

International standards relating to the control of radioactivity in food and drinking water have been developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The IAEA publication, Criteria for Radionuclide Activity Concentrations for Food and Drinking Water (TECDOC 1788), summarizes these international standards and clarifies the circumstances in which each standard applies. It also discusses the management of situations where certain foods, such as wild mushrooms and game meat, may contain elevated levels of radionuclides over an extended period. TECDOC-1788 forms the background material for the future harmonization of international standards in this area.

Food and drinking water may contain both naturally-occurring and man-made radionuclides. When consumed, this may expose people to radiation. For this reason, it is important to know the amounts of radionuclides in food and drinking water and, if necessary, control their distribution.

Naturally occurring radioactive material, such as potassium-40, polonium-210, thorium-232 and uranium-238 can be found in food and drinking water. The radionuclides in food may be a result of root uptake from the soil, direct deposition from the atmosphere onto crops or transfer via aquatic pathways (freshwater or seawater). In the case of drinking water, radionuclides may be absorbed as water passes over or through rocks and soils.

Man-made radioactive material in food and drinking water is mostly present only in small amounts and may include caesium-137 from the fallout after nuclear weapons tests or other radionuclides from authorized discharges from licensed facilities. Another example would be during the recovery phase following a nuclear or radiological emergency, when measureable amounts of radionuclides may still be found in various foodstuffs.

International standards relating to the control of radioactivity in food and drinking water have been developed by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the IAEA and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The IAEA publication, Criteria for Radionuclide Activity Concentrations for Food and Drinking Water, summarizes these international standards and clarifies the circumstances in which each standard applies. It also discusses the management of situations where certain foods, such as wild mushrooms and game meat, may contain elevated levels of radionuclides over an extended period. The publication forms the background material for the future harmonization of international standards in this area.

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