Joint Division Questions & Answers - Nuclear Emergency Response for Food and Agriculture

The following questions and answers are intended to provide general background information only. They are not intended to give a complete overview of possible protective actions that can be implemented following a nuclear or radiological emergency as these will depend on site specific conditions.

  • Q: Can all nuclear or radiological emergencies affect food, feed and commodities grown on land or in water?
  • Q: What are the immediate major impacts on agriculture?
  • Q: Which radionuclides could present problems for food production?
  • Q: Are there guide line levels for radionuclides in foods for international trade?
  • Q: What are main ways that radionuclides can enter into the food chain?
  • Q: How can radioactive materials (radionuclides) enter plant products during the early stage of the nuclear emergency?
  • Q: Do weather conditions play a role in the radioactive contamination of soils and crops?
  • Q: In what ways can radionuclides contaminate farm animals and animal products after a nuclear accident?
  • Q: What immediate actions could be taken in case of nuclear emergency?
  • Q: How protect crops can be protected from direct contamination if there is a possibility that radionuclides will be released into the air?
  • Q: What can be done to mitigate the effects of radioactive contamination on livestock and contamination of animal products in the early period after the nuclear accident?
  • Q: What should be done if dairy products are found to be contaminated with I-131?
  • Q: Can crops accumulate radioactive materials from contaminated soils even when they are planted after the deposition (fallout) of radionuclides has ceased?
  • Q: What are main factors determining contamination of plants in the long-term after the deposition?
  • Q: Can we use surface water to irrigate crops?
  • Q: How long after the accident can food still be exposed to radioactive contamination?
  • Q: How can we reduce contamination of arable land, once deposition (fallout) of radioactive material has ceased?




  • Q: How can the spread of radioactivity from contaminated soil be minimized?
  • Q: What can be done to reduce contamination of plants once the deposition (fallout) of radioactive material has ceased?
  • Q: What measures can be taken to reduce the levels of radiocaesium in contaminated livestock in the long term after the nuclear accident?
  • (1) Hexacyanoferrate compounds (also known as Prussian blue) are caesium binders which may be added to the diet of livestock to reduce radiocaesium transfer to milk, meat and other animal products by reducing absorption in the gut. The form most commonly used for remediation is ammonium ferric hexacyanoferrate (AFCF).
  • Q: How can radionuclides in the soil be measured and why is this information needed?
  • Q: Can radionuclide activity concentrations be measured in live animals or only in slaughtered animals?
  • Q: Are there techniques for rapid measurements of radioactivity in food?






  • Q: What should be sampled and how many samples should be taken?
  • Q: Why and how should contaminated agricultural products be disposed?
  • Q: Why is it that “wild-foods” from natural and semi-natural environments can be found with higher levels of radionuclides that foods produced on farms?