Written Answers. - Irradiated Foods.


asked the Minister for Health if he will outline the Government's policy on the importation and sale of irradiated food, if his attention has been drawn to the fact that more than half the people questioned in a survey conducted by the Consumers' Association said that they would not buy irradiated foods, even if they were cheaper; if he has satisfied himself regarding the environmental and health effects of the sale of such foodstuffs; and, if so, the grounds on which that satisfaction is based.

My attention has been drawn to the survey conducted by the Consumers' Association. While I am well aware of the concern of many people about the irradiation of food, it nevertheless must be accepted that this treatment of food is internationally recognised and is currently used as a legitimate method of food preservation in many countries. The irradiation of food was approved in 1981 by the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency for use on certain foods at specified levels.

While there is no irradiation of food taking place in Ireland, over 18 countries have reported commercial activities in food irradiation and approximately 30 industrial irradiation facilities are under construction or being planned. An EC working party has been considering the adoption of a Directive for some time. The EC proposal is that foodstuffs may only be irradiated if there is a food hygiene need, or a demonstrable technological or other advantage or benefit to the consumer and if the foodstuffs are wholesome and in a proper condition. Irradiation should not be used as a substitute for good manufacturing practice. Foodstuffs irradiated may be marketed only if their packages and containers comply with the Food Labelling Directive (79/112/EEC) and the Commission is considering a proposal to make specific provision in this Directive in relation to indication of irradiation so that the consumer will be fully able to exercise a choice in the matter.

I am confident that the final draft of the proposed Directive will adequately reflect legitimate concerns in relation to any possible environmental and health effects of food irradiation.