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2002-12-06 16:48:28
Irradiated food rejected by consumers

Proposals by the European Commission to extend the number of foods that may be irradiated has been met with widespread opposition from consumer groups and Euro-MPs.

Food irradiation is the process of treating foods with ionizing radiation. By breaking chemical bonds in molecules, it can increase the shelf life of foods by destroying bacteria and slowing the decay of fruit and vegetables.
Different foods require varying degrees of irradiation to ensure their safety, with meat, for example, being given a dose of radiation equivalent to 3 million chest x-rays.

Strong controls against irradiation already exist across Europe, but the Commission has proposed some changes to harmonise the rules and facilitate free trade within the EU. It has suggested adding products such as egg white, dried fruit and peeled shrimps to the list of foods that may be irradiated.

But Southport Euro-MP Chris Davies has warned that food manufacturers should be given no licence to sell old and sub-standard products while relying on irradiation to prevent food poisoning.

The Liberal Democrat MEP, a member of the European Parliament's Public Health and Consumer Affairs Committee, has given his support to plans for better controls of irradiated food, greater enforcement of laws against illegal irradiation, and more research into the long-term health impact of irradiated food and risks to food workers.

Mr Davies said: "Although permission has been given for a small number of products, such as herbs, to be irradiated and sold in the UK, at present none are so treated because consumers do not want to buy them.

"The supermarkets have rightly refused to stock irradiated products, and any suggestion that there might be a relaxation in the rules would be a step in the wrong direction."

The British Medical Association (BMA) has also voiced opposition to extending the list of irradiated foods. It fears that food producers might be encouraged to lower health standards because contamination could be compensated by irradiation.

Article submitted by A.Manderson on behalf of Chris Davies MEP.
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