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Irradiated mango, anyone?

Irradiated mango, anyone?

It is a travesty the Government has agreed to allow irradiated tropical fruit to be imported into New Zealand, without first asking consumers whether they want to eat nuked food, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

"Food Safety Minister Annette King must explain to New Zealanders why she is allowing this controversial new food technology in, without first conducting a wide-ranging public debate and a nationwide survey," Ms Kedgley said. "Most New Zealanders would be alarmed to learn that tropical fruit they will soon be buying may have been exposed to large doses of potentially cancer-causing radiation.

"What is the point of having a Food Safety Minister, who is supposed to protect New Zealand consumers and ensure their food is safe, if she is ignoring consumer concerns and weakening New Zealand food standards in this way?" Ms Kedgley asked.

The Government agreed at a recent meeting of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Council, to allow the importation into New Zealand of irradiated mango, papaya, mangosteen, litchi, bread fruit, carambola, custard apple and rambutan.

Ms Kedgley said she was equally astonished by the Government's attempt today, at an international meeting of the food standards setting body Codex, to remove any limits on the dose of irradiation that can be applied to food. "If they succeed, food producers will be free to irradiate food as much as they like, with no questions asked."

New Zealand delegates are working with American and Australian delegates to try to remove the present Codex limit of 10 kGy (kilo-Gray) on the dose of radiation that can be applied to food. "Irradiation exposes food to radiation doses 100,000 to 3 million times the strength of a chest x-ray. It partially destroys vitamin and fatty acids and can cause the formation of carcinogenic chemicals," Ms Kedgley said.

"The Government's stance is astonishing given new evidence that chemicals formed during irradiation of a number of foods, including mango and pawpaw, may cause colon cancer and DNA damage," she said.

New Zealand's stance is opposed by the European Union and many other nations, which say they cannot endorse moves to allow the irradiation of all foods above the current maximum irradiation dose limit, because not enough research has been done to assess the safety of eating irradiated foods.

Ms Kedgley today asks a Parliamentary Question on the topic in the House.

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