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Radioactivity Limit No Problem 15 October 2004

A United Nations Food Safety Commission is proposing a new limit for radioactivity in food. The aim of the new limit is to reduce the cancer risk to consumers, to below one in a million. Although the limit would apply to all food, only shellfish harvested close to Sellafield are likely to be affected, as monitoring results show that present concentrations of Plutonium would breach the proposed new limit. The UK Food Standards Agency has said that the new limit is not proportionate to the actual risk. However, the UK shellfish industry is concerned as shellfish harvested from the Cumbrian Coast, the Solway Firth and Morecambe Bay, regularly exceed the proposed limit for plutonium contamination of 1 Becquerel per kilogram.

The Manx fishing industry is centered on scallops and queen scallops, which have been tested for many years both locally and at the UK Government Fisheries Laboratory at Lowestoft. The test results show that plutonium concentrations in the scallops rarely exceed 20% of the proposed new limit. Therefore in the event that these new limits are adopted throughout Europe, there will be no impact on the Manx scallop industry. The amount of radioactivity in white fish caught in the Irish Sea, is at a much lower level than occurs in shellfish and would therefore be unaffected by the proposed new limits.

Plutonium is relatively insoluble and immobile in the marine environment, and so tends to become fixed on the sediments along the Cumbrian Coast. For this reason Plutonium concentrations around the Isle of Man are only a fraction of the levels found close to the Sellafield site, and have remained unchanged for many years. There is no prospect of plutonium discharges from Sellafield increasing and, on this basis, there is no reason to expect any increase in radioactive contamination of scallops in the future.

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