Radioactivity in food

Radioactivity has been around since the earth was created and it exists naturally in the atmosphere, soil, seas and rivers. Inevitably some of this gets into the food we eat.

Radioactivity occurs naturally in all food. Natural radioactivity can be transferred into food in different ways, such as:

  • into crops from rocks and minerals present in the soil
  • drinking water can pick up radioactivity from the earth
  • fish and shellfish can take up radioactivity from the water or sea floor

Artificial radioactivity can also get into food. This can happen when radioactive materials are discharged into the environment from civil or military nuclear operations. Artificial radioactivity then passes through the food chain in the same way as natural radioactivity.

Radioactivity and our bodies

Radioactivity can damage our body’s DNA. Low doses of radiation can be repaired but higher doses can change our body’s cells. When this happens, there may be an increased likelihood of developing cancer.

Radioactivity in food | Food Standards Agency