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EU To Extend Checks On Food From Chernobyl Area

Date: 25-Jun-09
Country: BELGIUM
Author: Reuters

BRUSSELS - The European Union plans to extend strict radioactivity checks by 10 years on food imports from areas affected by the 1986 Chernobyl disaster due to continuing nuclear contamination, a document showed on Monday.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, first restricted imports just days after the accident in April 1986, with laws that have been successively updated since then. The current legislation runs out on March 31, 2010.

In a draft law to be submitted to EU countries, the Commission said the radioactive caesium contamination of certain farm products originating in countries most affected by the accident still exceeded maximum permitted levels.

"A number of products originating from species living and growing in natural and semi-natural areas may present high levels of caesium-137 contamination and the reduction with time of these levels in these products ... relates to the physical half-life of that radionuclide, which is 30 years," it said.

Products affected by the EU controls include many live animals such as horses, pigs, cows, poultry, sheep and goats, as well as meats and edible offal, birds' eggs, dairy products, sausages, natural honey, non-cultivated mushrooms, and certain wild berries and fruits like cranberries and bilberries.

The Chernobyl disaster was the world's worst civil nuclear accident, sending radiation over most of Europe.

The fire and explosion occurred in Ukraine on April 26, 1986, although neighbouring Belarus -- downwind from the blast -- was the country most severely affected, with a quarter of its territory contaminated.

(Editing by Sue Thomas)

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