Food: Blunders increase Chernobyl danger

Britons face an increased risk of cancer by eating foods, such as milk, contaminated by the Chernobyl accident, according to research published today. John Jeffers, a former government scientist who was director of the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology, told New Scientist magazine that monitoring of radiation levels in food following the accident was "half- hearted and fairly ridiculous".

Mr Jeffers said that immediately after the Chernobyl explosion, there was no Government funding into the behaviour of radioactivity in moorlands and no co-ordinated effort was made to trace where food had become contaminated. He added: "We could have learned a great deal about how radionuclides moved through different ecosystems, but we fluffed it."

But the Ministry of Agriculture defended its record of testing for radiation at the time, saying that in 1986 it tested 28,490 samples of milk, vegetables, cereals and sheep for radiation. It said iodine levels in milk only reached 20 per cent of safety limits recommended by the National Radiological Protection Board.

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