Restrictions imposed on over 300 farms in North Wales and Cumbria relating to radioactive contamination from the Chernolbyl nuclear reactor accident could soon be lifted.
The Food Standards Agency is launching a consultation to seek views about whether to remove all post-Chernobyl controls on sheep farms in the UK.
Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former USSR, controls remain to prevent sheep with unacceptable levels of radioactivity, predominantly radiocaesium, from entering the food chain.
But the agency says food safety concerns are now very low and, as a result, restrictions have been removed from the majority of the 9,800 UK holdings originally affected.
Only 334 farms in North Wales and eight farms in Cumbria remain under some form of restriction and all controls were lifted in Northern Ireland in 2000 and in Scotland in 2010.
The FSA has recently carried out an extensive survey of radiocaesium levels in sheep on the restricted farms and used this to assess the potential exposure of consumers to radiation.
The survey showed that the levels of radiocaesium rarely exceed the permitted limit, and even for more highly exposed consumers the risk is now very low.
Current restrictions and controls on the movement of sheep in the restricted areas of England and Wales will remain in place during the consultation.
* Farmers Weekly interviewed two farmers still under restriction in May 2011 to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl incident. Watch the video and read their stories.