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National food study provides insight into radiation in the Australian diet

1 November 2019

When we think about exposure to radiation in our everyday lives, food might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but naturally-occurring radiation can be found in our homes, the air we breathe and the food we eat.

In the first study of its kind in Australia, ARPANSA produced a report on radiation present in foods that make up a typical Australian diet.

ARPANSA’s new report looks at radiation dose from food taking into consideration both natural and artificial sources of radiation. The results showed levels are very low and would not present any health concerns.

‘This study gave us a great insight into the everyday diet of Australians and the level of exposure from radionuclides in food,’ said Dr Rick Tinker, Director of Assessment and Advice at ARPANSA.

‘We screen many food samples in our radiochemistry lab, for artificial radionuclides, but this program of work was unique as it gives us a picture of the average baseline level of radiation exposure Australians receive from food in a year.’

The study found that there were small traces of one artificial radionuclide detected in some foods. More importantly, there was a range of naturally occurring radionuclides detected in most foods at varying concentrations.

‘Based on the analysis of this typical Australian diet – as expected, we saw some very low levels of natural and artificial radionuclides but at these very low levels there are no health implications due to radiation exposure’, Dr Tinker noted.

While ARPANSA conducted the food testing and dose estimations for the report, Food Standards Australia New Zealand played an integral role in developing a model of the typical Australian diet.

This study provides Australia with a valuable reference to normal radiation levels in our diet.

‘It’s great to have that data on levels of radionuclides in a range of food products so we can monitor any change over time or in the case of any future nuclear events,’ said Dr Tinker.

You can view the full report here: Radiation Doses from the Average Australian Diet.