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Food Safety Focus (46th Issue, May 2010) – Food Incident Highlight

Volcanic Ash and Food Safety

Following the eruption of the volcano in Iceland in March, some people are concerned about volcanic ash fall on public health, including the aspect of food safety.

Volcanic ash is made up of sand and dust produced when explosive eruptions demolish solid rock. The amounts of ash different areas received depend on the distance that ash can travel. The effects on livestock and crops depend on the amount of ash deposited and the acidity of ash. Removal of ash by overhead irrigation and air blasting, together with washing the produce before packing and marketing are possible measures.

Furthermore, the level of fluoride in the ash fall is critical in relation to health effects. Despite limited data, the European Food Safety Authority considered that fluoride found in ash fall from the volcanic eruption in Iceland would not pose food safety concern in the European Union.