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ANZFA permission sought for nuked food

Irradiated herbs, nuts, teas and spices may soon be on sale in New Zealand after a decade long moratorium on irradiated food, Green Health and Safe Food spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

The Australia New Zealand Food Authority announced today it is evaluating an irradiation application for the above products and oilseed from Australian company Steritech and calling for public submissions on the application. The authority expects to make a decision on the application early in the new year. "Given that a very large amount of Australian food is sold in New Zealand, these irradiated food ingredients would quickly penetrate our market once ANZFA gave the go-ahead," Ms Kedgley said.

Given that ANZFA has so far approved every application it has considered, Ms Kedgley said the consultation process was likely to be little more than a rubber stamp.

"Irradiation is a controversial food technology which sterilises food by exposing it to radiation doses 100,000--3 million times the strength of a chest X-ray," Ms Kedgley said. "Irradiated food is taken into concrete encased cell on a conveyor belt and zapped with radioactive material in the form of cobalt-60 or casium-137 isotopes which are the by-products of nuclear reactor technology."

"There have been no studies of the long term health effects of consuming irradiated food, but the consumption of irradiated food has caused cancer, tumours, kidney damage and other immune and reproductive problems in animal studies," she said.

"Irradiation also reduces the nutritional value of food and destroys vitamins by up to 10-20 per cent along with fatty acids in food that are crucial for good health."

Another concern was that irradiation does not kill all pathogenic bacteria, so it could actually increase cases of food poisoning.

"It can be used as a quick fix way of covering up bacterial contamination in food, instead of cleaning up food processing environments and sourcing food from producers who do not allow food to be contaminated at its source," she said.

Although the technology has been available for decades, it is only now trickling into supermarkets in the United States because of widespread consumer resistance.

Sue Kedgley MP: (04) 470 6728 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: (04) 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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