It is important to be prepared for nuclear or radiological emergencies in order to ensure the safe use of food and animal feed and to avoid disruptions to operations and financial losses. Preparedness for a nuclear or radiological emergency means preparing for the contamination prevention and ensuring product safety. Food premises and production facilities should also be prepared for nuclear or radiological emergencies in order to launch protection actions at the right time and to resume normal operations as soon as possible. With sufficient and effective protective actions, products ending up with consumers are safe and financial losses can be minimised.
Contamination can occur at any point of the food and animal feed production chain, for which reason the protection of raw ingredients, production and storage facilities, transport equipment, shops and service premises is crucial. The protection of food premises and animal feed production facilities should be launched as soon as possible. Protective measures must be in place before radioactive materials arrive in the region.
These guidelines provide a concise description of the measures that can be taken in food premises and animal feed production facilities to prepare for nuclear or radiological emergencies. Instructions on the protection measures to be taken before the arrival and after the passing of a radioactive plume (e.g., cleaning) are given separately. Specific actions suitable for different types of premises and facilities should be considered in advance – not when a nuclear or radiological incident has already occurred. For example, it is essential to ensure that all food premises and production facilities have the necessary protective equipment, including PPE for workers, plastics, covers, suitable filters for ventilations systems and sealing tape. More information on the protective actions is available in STUK publication Protective actions in a nuclear or radiological emergency.
The safety of products supplied for sale during a nuclear or radiological emergency must be ensured throughout the incident. Contaminated foodstuffs and animal feed will be set activity concentration limits, which products placed on the market may not exceed. The activity concentration levels are set at Community level by the European Commission or at a national level by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry decree. Recommendations and restrictions may also be set for various natural products if their activity concentration levels exceed the set limit.
In addition to personnel, protective actions at food premises and animal feed production facilities are aimed at prepared food products and animal feeds, their raw ingredients and the spaces, equipment and instruments used for their preparation, transport, handling and storage. The key measures after a radioactive plume has passed the region include cleaning premises and facilities and ensuring safe radiation levels in products.
Protective actions should be taken only at the instruction of authorities and based on their recommendations, and only when appropriate for the food premises and animal feed production facilities. Naturally, protective actions should be initiated independently as soon as information of a potential nuclear or radiological emergency threatening the region is received. Authorities monitor nuclear or radiological emergencies and issue guidelines on what actions must be taken, when, and in which areas. Food and animal feed safety authorities will issue more specific instructions on protective actions as necessary. Information about the division of tasks and responsibilities between different agencies is available in the Ministry of the Interior publication Säteilytilanneohje (in Finnish; Guidelines for nuclear or radiological emergencies).
Protective actions taken before the arrival of radioactive materials in the region
- foodstuff/animal feed production and other operations are suspended if necessary and possible
- ventilation of the premises/facilities is reduced or shut down, if possible;
- at mills etc., silos are shut down and hatches are sealed as required
- supply air is filtered if ventilation cannot be shut down (effective supply air filter, particle filter for ventilation machinery, filter cloth, glass wool, rock wool etc.)
- openings affecting ventilation are closed; the sealing of windows and doors is secured with, e.g., tape
- in interior spaces, foodstuffs/animal feeds and their raw materials are protected with, e.g., plastic covers; product packages provide relatively good protection against fallout; if necessary, additional protection with covers is used to prevent the contamination of the surfaces of packaging
- foodstuffs/animal feeds are transferred into refrigerators, freezers or other closed spaces in smaller premises/facilities and, on larger food premises, into insulated and sealed cold storage, a freezer unit or a space where ventilation has been shut down
- raw ingredients for foodstuffs/animal feeds kept outdoors are brought indoors; if this is not possible, they are carefully covered (plastic sheets, lightweight tarpaulins etc.)
- The machinery and equipment used in the preparation or handling of foodstuffs/animal feeds are protected with covers if possible
- the personnel are protected against radiation
Protective actions carried out after the passing of a radioactive plume
- spaces are aired and thoroughly cleaned (cleaning and wiping surfaces with damp cloths), including in only mildly contaminated areas; cleaning is repeated at necessary intervals
- the introduction of radioactive materials indoors, for example, by way of footwear, is prevented
- if necessary, radioactive materials introduced to indoor spaces during the radioactive exposure removed by cleaning the surfaces/packages
- materials and products that were unprotected during the presence of a radioactive plume may not be used in foodstuffs/animal feed preparation or packaged or supplied until their safety has been verified – products and raw materials that were protected (e.g., stored in packages) in closed spaces will remain clean
- the safety of products and premises is verified through measurements
- products whose set activity concentration levels are exceeded must be handled as contaminated waste
- contaminated products are rejected and disposed of as advised by the authorities
- raw materials for foodstuffs/animal feeds sourced from contaminated areas may not be accepted unless their safety has been verified; in other words, raw materials should be sourced from clean areas only
- the personnel are protected against radiation
Requirements for placing foodstuffs and animal feeds on the market
- responsibility for the safety of foodstuffs and animal feeds lies with the food business operator ((EC) No 178/2002 Articles 19 and 20)
- a competent authority may temporarily prohibit the sale and introduction of food/animal feed business operators; this prohibition is revoked once the safety of foodstuffs/animal feeds has been verified
- prohibitions of sale or introduction are revoked starting with the operators with the widest-reaching impact on the security of food/animal feed supply (measurements may be carried out by the authorities)
- operators may also demonstrate the compliance of their products with their own measurements; products must be measured with appropriate methods; the decision on revoking the prohibition of sale and introduction is made by a competent authority
- STUK publication Protective actions in a nuclear or radiological emergency Guide VAL 1/1
- Ministry of the Interior publication Säteilytilanneohje (in Finnish; Guidelines for nuclear or radiological emergencies)