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Greens shocked by approval for irradiated foods

14 September 2001

Greens shocked by approval for irradiated foods

Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley today said she was shocked by the decision to allow herbal teas, herbs and spices to be exposed to radiation doses over three times the international safety limit of 10 kilograys.

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council - including Health Minister Annette King - yesterday approved the irradiation of some herbs, teas and spices.

Irradiation sterilises foods by exposing it to radiation levels up to three million times the strength of a chest X-ray. Most irradiation plants use cobalt 60, a by-product of plutonium to irradiate food.

"Obviously the Ministers are attempting to put the best possible spin on their decision, but the fact is that irradiation is a highly controversial technology which has been rejected by consumers around the world," said Ms Kedgley.

"Consumers don't want to eat food that has been nuked. They want to eat safe, naturally wholesome food. There are a number of safer, environmentally friendly alternatives such as steam sterilisation, oxygen deprivation and temperature control which are already being used to sterilise herbs," she said.

Ms Kedgley said there had been no long-term studies of the safety of irradiated food.

Ms Kedgley said it was ironic that a former Labour government had imposed a moratorium on food irradiation in New Zealand in 1989, and that another Labour Government was ending the moratorium and allowing irradiated food to be sold in New Zealand for the first time.

She said she was extremely concerned that the Ministers were allowing misleading labels to be used to identify herbs, spices and herbal teas that had been irradiated. Companies would be able to say that food had been treated with 'ionising electrons' or with 'ionising radiation.'

"Many consumers will not understand that this means direct exposure to substantial doses of radiation," said Ms Kedgley.

"I fear this will be the first step in a much wider drive to use irradiation technology in food sterilisation. Another application has already been lodged to allow the import and sale in New Zealand of irradiated tropical fruits such as papaya and mango."


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