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Backgrounder on Food Irradiation

13 September 2001

Backgrounder on Food Irradiation

Sue Kedgley has Question Two in Parliament on this issue today

1. Health Minister Annette King will meet with Australian Health Ministers today to decide whether or not to allow irradiated herbs, spices, herbal teas, peanuts, almonds, cashew nuts and pistachio nuts to be sold in Australia and New Zealand.

2. If the proposal gets the go-ahead, this will be the first time that irradiated food can legally be sold here since a ban was imposed in 1989.

3. In 1999, a meeting of Health Ministers agreed that irradiated food could not be sold here or in Australia unless it had been granted a specific exemption. This is the first application under that agreement.

4. The Australian New Zealand Food Authority has recommended that the application be approved, despite the fact that it would allow herbs and spices to be irradiated at three times the internationally accepted maximum dose of 10 kiloGray.

5. Irradiation involves exposing food to radiation doses 100,000 to 3 million times the strength of a chest X-ray.

6. Irradiation reduces the nutritional value of food and partially destroys vitamins C, A, E and thiamine, along with fatty acids crucial for good health.

7. Irradiation can change the colour, taste and texture of foods, and hide odours which indicate food is spoiled. It can also by used to substitute good manufacturing practices and cover up contamination.

8. There have been no studies of the long-term health effects of consuming irradiated food.

ENDS

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