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Decision On Irradiated Food Due Today

13 September 2001

Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley is calling on the Health Minister to block the first ever approval for irradiated food when it is considered at a top-level meeting today.

Australian and New Zealand Health Ministers will decide whether or not to accept a recommendation which would allow irradiated herbs, spices, herbal teas, peanuts, almonds, cashew nuts and pistachio nuts to be sold in New Zealand and Australia.

Ms Kedgley said she was astounded that the Australian New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) was recommending an end to the ban on food irradiation, and said Mrs King should speak out against allowing irradiated food into New Zealand.

"Irradiation is an unproven and highly controversial food technology that sterilises food by exposing it to radiation doses 100,000 to 3 million times the strength of a chest X-ray," Ms Kedgley said.

"There is no need to use this controversial technology, as there are effective, safe, environmentally friendly alternative treatments such as steam treatment, oxygen deprivation, temperature control and freezing."

Ms Kedgley said she was especially alarmed at the ANZFA proposal to allow herbs to be irradiated to three times the internationally accepted maximum dose of 10 kGY.

"I am astonished that our food authority is recommending that we allow food that has been irradiated to a level that is way in excess of internationally accepted standards in our food supply --particularly when there have been no studies of the long term health effects of consuming irradiated food," Ms Kedgley said.

"Irradiation does not destroy viruses such as those that cause hepatitis, the prions that cause BSE or pathogenic bacteria such as listeria. It reduces the nutritional value of food and destroys vitamins (C, A, E and thiamine) by up to 10-20 percent, along with fatty acids in food that are crucial for good health.

"Irradiation can change the taste, colour and texture of foods and hide odours that would indicate food is spoiled. It can also be used to substitute good manufacturing practices and cover up bacterial contamination in food.

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

Ends


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