UK boffins have launched a portable radiation detector for the food industry that they are targeting at Japanese companies in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.

The Kromek Food Inspector detects the presence of radioactive contaminants in food and drink using technology that can distinguish between man-made hazardous radiation sources, such as a nuclear leak, and everyday background radiation.

The device can check a sample in under five minutes and uses a simple interface to display results. Developer Kromek, which is based in Durham and specialises in niche technology, said the device is far easier to use than competing products, which “tend to be used predominantly by scientists in laboratories”.

“We have designed the Food Inspector to assist the food retail chain in their efforts to demonstrate the safety of food with a fast, accurate and highly cost-effective system,” said Kromek’s CEO Arnab Basu. “The system is very easy to use, will stimulate confidence in suppliers and customers, and will help ensure regulatory requirements are met.”