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Please ensure that Standard 1.5.3, requiring irradiated food to be labelled in Australia and New Zealand, is retained and strengthened.

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At present, all irradiated food sold in Australia and New Zealand is required to be labelled under Standard 1.5.3. This applies to produce and processed food.

Options for labelling include the international Radura symbol, which is pictured at:

Permitted wording can include 'irradiated', 'treated with ionising radiation' or 'treated with ionising electrons.' For processed foods, labelling may be in the ingredients list.

Irradiated produce may have a sticker indicating this, or there may be a notice close to where it is sold.

Restaurant meal irradiated ingredients need to be labelled on the menu, and for restaurants, takeaway and bakery food a notice needs to be display in the sales area.

In 2009, the Blewett Review into food labelling was launched, and this concluded with the 2011 publication of a report called Labelling Logic. Among its recommendations is Recommendation 34, 'That the requirement for mandatory labelling of irradiated food be reviewed.'

This recommendation was later supported by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (FoFR), a body largely consisting of Australian and New Zealand health and food ministers. Between late 2014 and late 2015, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is expected to start a review of mandatory irradiated food labelling, and to compile a report that will then be referred to the FoFR. This could easily result in labelling being discontinued.

Instead, we would like to see the existing regime slightly strengthened in the following two areas:

a)      A requirement for individual sticker labelling of irradiated produce.

b)      Specified mandatory wording in place of the current wording guidelines.

The FoFR's response to Labelling Logic is at:

As with many novel food technologies, public enthusiasm for irradiated food is low. The Comment section of Recommendation 34 talks about communicating 'the safety and benefits of irradiation to consumers', and hopes to 'reduce disincentives for increased uptake and broader application of the technology by industry.'  

Given the resistance to irradiated food among a section of the public, the ending of mandatory labelling would be the most effective means of achieving 'increased uptake', given that very few companies would choose to voluntarily label their food in this way.

It is worth acknowledging that there is no international scientific consensus that irradiated foods are safe. Concerns have been raised by Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility (New Zealand), and Dr. C. Gopalan, former chief of the Indian Council of Medical Research.

From 2008-2009, dozens of Australian cats suffered fatal neurological damage after eating cat food that had been heavily irradiated on its entry into the country. As a result, Australia still maintains a ban on irradiating imported cat food.

Among its downsides, food irradiation results in the loss of essential vitamins. Substances known as radiolytic byproducts, some of which are harmful to human health, are created in low concentrations.

Irrespective of whether or not irradiated food is considered to be comparatively safe, in a free market consumers deserve to know what they are buying via the full provision of relevant information.

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Martin Oliver needs your help with “Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation: Please ensure that Standard 1.5.3, requiring irradiated food to be labelled in Australia and New Zealand, is retained and strengthened.”. Join Martin and 227 supporters today.