News 04.04.2011

EU to further lower limits for radioactivity

  • Radiation

Limits for radioactive contamination in food from Japan are to be further lowered throughout Europe. The German Federal Government intends to support this measure. EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger also wants to have the current values reviewed. These plans represent a complete political about-turn for the EU and the German Federal Government in the wake of public criticism: just a few days ago, on 27 March, the EU raised the limits by adopting an emergency ordinance.

“Preventive consumer protection must be given priority,” said a spokesperson for Germany’s Minister of Consumer Protection, Ilse Aigner (CSU), on Friday in Berlin. “Therefore, if the limits are being harmonised, it is important that the lowest – meaning the safest – limit is always applied for reasons of preventive health protection as a basic principal.” In a surprise move, the German Federal Government announced on Friday that it would be advocating for a reduction of limits on the European level. EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger would also like to have the limits for radioactive contamination reviewed and potentially reduced.

Higher limits in force since 27 March

The emergency ordinance, which in addition to requirements for tougher controls also contained higher limits for the long-lived radioactive materials caesium-134 and caesium-137, was adopted last weekend at the instigation of Germany. Austria had voiced immediate criticism. Reports of similar reactions were heard from the UK.

The German Federal Government fails to announce raised limits

The decision to raise limits was not communicated by the German Federal Government. In response to public criticism from foodwatch and the Munich Environmental Institute, the government initially tried to explain that there had previously been no limits that applied to products from Japan and that the emergency ordinance therefore represented an improvement of the situation. Later the officials resorted to hair-splitting by reasoning that the limits had technically not been raised because the new limits had been established by a different ordinance than the old limits. However, this does not change the fact that new, higher limits have been in force for products from Japan since 27 March, and that these limits are also being applied in practice.