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Nuked mangoes arrive in New Zealand

20 December 2004

Nuked mangoes arrive in New Zealand

The Green Party has learned that the first container load of irradiated mangoes, zapped with the equivalent of three million chest x-rays, were air freighted to New Zealand over the weekend.

Green Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said the mangoes were irradiated at Steritech irradiation facility in Brisbane, which she visited recently.
This is the first irradiated whole food imported into New Zealand, because New Zealand has had long-standing opposition to nuclear technology including irradiated food.

Ms Kedgley said Steritech uses radioactive material - cobalt 60, a by-product of nuclear reactor technology - to irradiate the fruit with radiation doses up to 3 million times the strength of a chest X-ray. As the gamma rays pass over food, they produce physical, chemical and biological changes that break down the molecular structure of food.

"Irradiation is a controversial technology which partially destroys vitamins and fatty acids, causes the formation of free radicals in food, and can cause the formation of carcinogenic chemicals in mangoes and papaw. Fresh fruit suffer the greatest amount of destruction by irradiation.

"Any store selling the mangoes will be required to display an in-store sign near the mangoes saying they have been treated with 'ionising electrons' which many consumers will not realise means they have been irradiated. But there is no requirement for restaurants or take-away outlets to label irradiated food."

Ms Kedgley said MAF recently audited and accredited the Steritech facility giving the green light for irradiated mangoes to enter New Zealand.

"It is absurd that the Government is allowing irradiated mangoes into New Zealand from Queensland, known as the fruit-fly capital of the world, when there are ample supplies of non-irradiated mangoes imported from other parts of the world. Furthermore, there are other successful heat treatments being used to sterilise mangoes that did not require irradiation.

"Irradiation processes have failed in the past, resulting in the release of fertile insects. Imagine the devastation if a non-sterilised fruit-fly or any of the other 44 quarantine pests associated with mangoes slipped through as a result of a bad day at the food-nuking plant.

"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.

"I fear this is the thin edge of the wedge and that there will be more and more attempts to bring in irradiated food into New Zealand. Only consumer opposition and corporate responsibility will be able to stop it now."

ENDS

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